In a preview of SOL boys’ soccer teams, Jarrad Saffren highlights some of the top players and predicts the top teams in each of the three conferences.
2017 Suburban One League Boys Soccer Preview
By Jarrad Saffren
The 2017 Suburban One League boys soccer season is upon us. All 22 SOL teams open their seasons this week, the first week of September.
With just about everyone’s record at 1-0 or 0-1, hope, of course, is bountiful across Bucks and Montgomery counties. Every coach is basically saying, “If we simultaneously score and prevent goals, we may be pretty good this year.” No coach is saying, “Well, we’ll probably suck this year but hopefully we can develop some young guys and be better in 2018.”
But there is one way to tell which coaches actually have high expectations, and which don’t. The coaches with high expectations will specifically mention titles they expect to compete for and win.
Observe Central Bucks West’s Stefan Szygiel: “CBW Boys Soccer will look to battle for the top of the SOL Continental and a state playoff berth.”
Or Abington coach Randy Garber: “Make the playoffs and get a high seed,” Garber said of his team’s goals.
The coaches with modest expectations take a different approach. They never mention specific goals. They just say, “If we do X, Y and Z, we might just compete in a lot of games.”
I won’t mention any specific coaches because they would get angry with me and I need them to like me and talk to me.
But here’s an outlook from one of them: “If everyone does their job, it will be a great season for us all.”
And here’s an outlook from another one of them: “We’re young but we’ve got a talented group that I hope will compete well.”
All 22 SOL teams, in the National, Continental and American, fit into one of those two categories. Find out which teams fit into which categories below, in our preview of all three leagues.
League champion: Abington. The Galloping Ghosts went 12-7 and reached the District One Class 4A playoffs in 2016. They return a lot of key players from that club, including leading scorer Sean Touey (22 goals) and goalkeeper Nick Brownholtz. All-Suburban One League National Conference players Dave Mazzio (Second Team) and Blair Barber (Honorable Mention) are also back. Abington coach Randy Garber has a reputation for getting the most out of his teams. And if he gets the most out of this one, his expectations will come true.
Other district playoff qualifiers:Council Rock North, Pennsbury, Neshaminy
Forward: Sean Touey, Abington—Opponents will focus more on Touey in 2017, so he may not score 22 goals again. But he will open up the field for his teammates, which is just as impactful.
Forward: Obi Onouha, Pennsbury—The First Team All-SOL National selection scored 11 goals in 2016, a breakout season.
Forward: Jack McCourt, Neshaminy—McCourt, like Onouha, had a breakout 2016, scoring 15 goals and making the All-SOL National First Team.
Midfielder: Conor O’Donnell, Council Rock North—O’Donnell leads an experienced Indians lineup.
Midfielder: Jon Pugh, Council Rock North—The Indians have the best midfield in the National. Pugh, like O’Donnell, was an all-league performer in 2016.
Midfielder: Connor Sweeney, Council Rock South—Sweeney was a second team all-league selection as a junior in 2016.
Defender: Justin Scharf, Council Rock North—Scharf made the 2016 All-SOL National First Team as a junior.
Defender: Javier Sosa, Pennsbury—Sosa made the 2016 first team as a sophomore.
Defender: Dylan Molina, Bensalem—Molina headlines an experienced backline that hopes to lead Bensalem to the district playoffs.
Defender: Kevin Bucklind, Harry S. Truman—Bucklind, like Molina, headlines an experienced backline that hopes to elevate its program into contention.
Goalkeeper: Nate Slotnick, Pennsbury—Slotnick was a second team all-league keeper in 2016.
League champion: North Penn. The Knights finally overtook archrival Central Bucks East in the Suburban One League Continental Conference last season. And they bring back enough talent to repeat and make another deep playoff run. North Penn returns two all-league forwards in Luke McMahon and Aidan Jerome, and an all-league defender in Carter Houlihan. Jack Johnston and Matt Murphy are also returning players with experience. The Knights, as usual, will have plenty of challengers in the Continental, including East. But they should have enough talent to hold them off.
Other district playoff qualifiers: Central Bucks East, Central Bucks West, Central Bucks South, Souderton
Forward: Matt Stevenson, Pennridge—Stevenson, an all-league performer in his first two high school seasons, may be the best scorer in the Continental.
Forward: Luke McMahon, North Penn—With Mike Kohler gone, McMahon will need to step up and lead North Penn’s attack.
Forward: Aidan Jerome, North Penn—Jerome will also have to take on a larger role with Kohler gone.
Forward: Marco Grenda, Pennridge—Grenda was an all-league performer as a sophomore in 2016. He will be counted on to complement Stevenson.
Midfielder: Tarin Morris, Central Bucks West—Morris is a fourth-year starter who will anchor CB West’s midfield.
Midfielder: Brendan Leasoff, Central Bucks East—Leasoff helped anchor a stifling defensive unit for the Patriots in 2016. He will need to take on more of an offensive role in 2017.
Midfielder: Carson Snyder, Central Bucks West—Snyder is a returning starter who will help Morris make the Bucks’ midfield unit the best in the conference.
Defender: Will Eisold, Central Bucks East—Eisold, a starter on CB East’s undefeated state championship team in 2015, may be the best defender in the Continental.
Defender: CJ Lang, Central Bucks West—Lang, an all-league center back, communicates very well with West’s all-league keeper, Dylan Smith.
Defender: Carter Houlihan, North Penn—Houlihan made an all-league team as a freshman in 2016.
Goalkeeper: Dylan Smith, Central Bucks West—Smith, a junior, made all-league teams in each of his first two high school seasons.
League champion: Wissahickon. The Trojans used to own the American Conference, winning it five straight years from 2008-2012, going 59-2-2 in conference play during that span. But they finished second in the last four seasons, still going 53-15-2 in league play. Longtime coach Stuart Malcolm finally has a club that can get over that hump in 2017. Wissahickon returns five all-league players—Jacob Kaffey (First Team), Eddie Fortescue (Second Team), Jacob Cohen (Second Team), Trey Schwartz (Third Team) and David Goldstein (Honorable Mention)—from a team that ended the 2016 regular season on a 10-1-1 tear.
Other district playoff qualifiers: Upper Dublin, Hatboro-Horsham
Forward: Eddie Fortescue, Wissahickon—Fortescue was one of Wissahickon’s big three scorers in 2016. He scored enough to make the All-SOL American Second Team.
Forward: Quinn Middleton, Upper Dublin—Middleton was a second team all-league selection in 2016.
Forward: Trey Schwartz, Wissahickon—Schwartz was another one of Wissahickon’s big three last year, and he was only a sophomore. He should take another big step forward in 2017.
Midfielder: Jerry Bardol, Upper Dublin—Bardol, a first team all-league selection in 2016, was the most active player on the American Conference champion. Former Flying Cardinals coach Derek Preist always mentioned his name over and over in postgame calls.
Midfielder: Colin Bateman, Hatboro-Horsham—In 2016, Bateman was the best all-around player on a Hatters team that went 12-4-3 and made the district playoffs. He will need to score more with brother Danny (13 goals, six assists) gone in 2017.
Midfielder: Jacob Cohen, Wissahickon—Cohen will anchor the center of the field for a balanced Trojans lineup.
Midfielder: Danny Harmon, Hatboro-Horsham—Harmon could step up as Hatboro-Horsham’s big scorer with his fellow Danny, Danny Bateman, gone.
Defender: Jacob Kaffey, Wissahickon—Wissahickon has a lot of scorers. Kaffey, its central defender, is the Trojan most responsible for preventing goals.
Defender: Kevin Walder, Upper Moreland—Walder was a second team all-league selection in 2016.
Defender: Trevor McCaffery, Springfield—McCaffery, a third team all-league selection in 2016, will need to play really well to keep Springfield in games.