Defending sectional champ Blue Devils seeking another strong soccer campaign
By John Bernhardt
Nelson Tournament Champions. Upper Division Champions. Delaware League Champions. Section IV Champions. State Tournament Regional Appearance. 17-1-1. 2009 was a banner season, a season of the ages, for the Margaretville boys’ soccer program.
With the graduation of eight seniors and the transfer of the last year’s leading scorer to another state, you could understand if Blue Devil coach Jeremey Marks was less than buoyant about the upcoming season. That’s just simply not the case.
“Even though we lost a nucleus of great players, we have so many guys returning this season ready to step into the roles that have been vacated. I’m looking for this group to take what we have worked to establish over the past four years and build on it,” emphasized Marks.
Senior Abraham Morales leads a healthy contingent of returners for the Blue Devils. A first-team Delaware League selection, Morales will be expected to take up some of the scoring slack created when last year’s team scoring leader, Tyler Smith, moved to St. Louis.
“Abraham reached double digits in goals and assists last season,” praised Marks. “He led our team in assists. Abraham is very dangerous with the ball, can beat the defense driving deep, drawing the defense, then finding the open guy.”
Morales should get a lot of help on the offensive end from another senior, Cody Fronckowiak. Fast and opportunistic, Fronckowiak scored near double digits and always seemed to find the net at critical times. “Every time Cody scored a goal last year, it was a big one,” marveled Marks. “Physically, Cody is a lot stronger this year, and he has three years of varsity experience, so we expect a big year from him.”
Senior Patrick O’Connell is a key cog in the defensive scheme. O’Connell has spent the past two seasons as a central defender, often assigned to shut down the top offensive threat of the opposing team. “Patrick is a ball winner, he’s not afraid to mix it up,” noted Marks. And, he’s a great guy to start our counter attacks, accurately distributing the ball to our midfielders to get the action going the other way.” O’Connell spent some time preparing in the goal this summer.
Another senior, Dan Jenkins, could be joining O’Connell in the backfield. In his fourth year on the varsity, Jenkins will be expected to use his physical presence helping defend the goal or shielding away opposing defenders from the middle of the forward line to better improve the Blue Devils chances to score.
Two remaining seniors, Jake Brophy and Matt Gray, provide Marks with depth and versatility. “Jake played on every line at one point or another last year,” added Marks. “That’s a real asset. Both these guys provide leadership and experience. They are great team players who will do whatever it takes to help the cause.”
Two juniors, Peter Cella and Ian Williams, have caught the eye of their coach in the preseason. Both had pivotal roles off the bench in last year’s championship season and came to camp physically ready and mentally prepared. “These guys came to practice the first day in peak shape and hungry to play. They have impressed me with their obvious work over the summer and will be rewarded accordingly,” Marks explained. Another junior, Iso Desic, was a key defender on last year’s championship team and Marks is looking for him to reassert himself on the team this fall.
A group of five juniors will be vying for valuable time on the field this year. All are returners from last year’s team and have gleaned important knowledge and skills during practice and games last season. Marshall Bouton, David VanKeuren, Adam Van Valkenburg, Garrett Johnson, and Ralph Falco are competing hard for time this fall.
Two sophomores return and are looking to expand their roles this year. Mitch Hull is competing to be the team’s first team goalie. Hull’s role could resemble that of Jenkins when he’s not in the goal, using his size to help anchor the defense on the front line or shield opposing defenders in front of the goal. Marks expects Sean Gauntt to provide some solid, steady, and consistent play on the defensive line.
Three sophomores will be joining the varsity for the first time. Ryan Sanford has a great work ethic and has added about six inches to his frame over the past year, and Caleb Todd and Randy Morse are working hard in the midfield.
Marks looks with an eager eye at a strong crop of four freshmen. Kyle Short, James Warner, Sam Gil and Victor Mendoza’s soccer skills remind the Blue Devil coach of the playing ability that last year’s title winning seniors brought to the varsity field their first year in high school. “These guys can play,” emphasized Marks.
The Blue Devil mentor considers several key factors as he evaluates his team’s chances at defending their championships. First, his team must be fit and in incredible shape. Marks understands that this season his troops cannot rely on overwhelming their opponents on the field, and their physical preparation must be second to none.
Second, to reach the highest level of play, the Blue Devil squad must communicate repeatedly on the field and synchronize well together. Third, it is critical that several players step up and emerge as playmakers, guys who can get the ball to an open man and make things happen. Finally, Marks knows to challenge at the top, his team must play an assertive, fearless brand of soccer.
If all that falls in place, Margaretville should be in the title hunt. “I think it’s a wide open chase on both sides of the league this year,” Marks analyzed. “SK should be real tough, but there are several teams who should challenge.”
As Marks sees it, Roxbury, Hunter, and Davenport are placed toward the top of that list.
Margaretville opens the season on August 31 at home versus Delhi.