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Soccer teams dream of titles

Last year, boys soccer was king in Northeast Philly.

Three of the four finalists and both champions from the two city leagues came from our high schools, and this year could be more of the same.

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In the Catholic League, it’s anyone’s guess, but the teams that met in the finals last year – Archbishop Ryan and Father Judge – are once again poised to make a run at the plaque. But it won’t be easy, the PCL is once again loaded.

On the Public League side, Northeast won the title last year. This year, the Vikings are led by a new coach, Phil Sarver. But there’s no guarantee that they’ll be back in the mix.

Central, Mastbaum and the other local schools bring back some talent and could contend for the throne.

It should be a very interesting season. Here is a look at the local teams that returned their information.

Owen Stock is one of the defenders who returns to help the Raiders. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

CATHOLIC LEAGUE

Archbishop Ryan

The Raiders won the Catholic League championship a season ago after finishing sixth during the regular season. They did so by running the gauntlet through the best teams the Catholic League had to offer. While they did graduate some key players, the ones returning have experience and are poised to make a run.

Archbishop Ryan will be led by senior captains Owen Stock, Frank Monaco and Mike McCurry.  Also returning to the mix are juniors Peyton Barton and Shawn Dixon.

New faces on the squad will be Mohamed Koneh and Jaydan Perez. Jack Stackhouse will also have a huge role on the team.

“Our backline will be senior strong with Stock and Monaco back for a second year together,” said Ryan coach Ryan Haney, who now has PCL titles as a player, girls coach and boys coach to his credit. “We will have a new goalkeeper for the first time in four years with sophomore Naseen Clark and junior Carter Buccello battling for minutes.

“We will go far as our discipline on the field will take us.”

Father Judge

The Crusaders were one of the best teams in soccer last year when they advanced to the PCL championship game and the state quarterfinals. The scary part is they might be even better this year.

Dane Pizzaro will lead the defense, working with Charlie Lloyd, Sean Gallagher, Braidon Storace, Dylan Fitzgibbon, Kevin Purcell, Blaise Mulvenna and Farley Souza.

The goalkeepers will be James Shensky, Aiden Kelley and Justin Kennish.

And offensively, the Crusaders will be led by a pair of 6-foot-4 scorers in Abu Cherif and Michael Browning.

Judge brings back size, speed, talent and depth.

“We are an experienced group in every position with a deep bench,” Judge coach John Dunlop said. “I think with a deep team, competition will continue for playing time throughout the year, which will hopefully keep us strong in the PCL. They are a hungry group of players after losing (in the championship) the last two years in a row.”

PUBLIC LEAGUE

Abraham Lincoln

Neal Convey is optimistic about the season. Last year, after going 6-3, Lincoln was on the upswing, but due to graduation and a few players transferring out, the Railsplitters are starting from scratch.

Good news is there’s a lot of talent.

“Although it’s very early, it looks like a lot of the younger players are stepping up and taking advantage of the opportunity to step in and contribute,” Convey said. “We are very young in the back but look to have good depth in the midfield. I’m very impressed with the work they are putting in so early and if they keep this pace and dedication we’ll keep getting better as the season progresses.

“We’ll definitely go through some growing pains, but I expect to be competing with the other top teams by the time the playoffs come around. At this point, I don’t really have an individual player to focus on, unfortunately.”

Franklin Towne Charter

Last year the Warriors were a game away from returning to the Public League championship game. This year, the goal is to once again get close, and they’ll have a talented group of seniors leading the way for coach Chris Logan.

The Warriors will be led by Alexander Pokora (defense), Richard Mitchell (midfield), Samuel Garcia-Barrios (midfield), David Adeleye (forward) and Thomas Sheridan (forward).

The Public League championship is not out of the question for the Warriors.

“(We) will look to build on an undefeated 2022 PPL regular season with one of the best midfields in the city in 2023,” Logan said. “This team will be able to score plenty of goals this season, but they will need to develop a bit more defensively to compete at the highest level. A strong senior class will help guide this team to another great year for FTC soccer.

“(We) will need to replace nine seniors who left the program last year, but a talented group of seniors will try to fill the leadership roles and help this time compete for a PPL championship. I believe we have a talented group of young men who will compete at a very high level.”

Samuel Fels

The Panthers had a fine year a season ago, finishing 8-1 in Public League play. This year, things could be a shade tougher since they’re moving up, but Fels should be ready to go.

The offense will be led by strikers Junior Paul, Beme Bamba and Stephen Cothias. The midfield will consist of John Cadet, Brandon Aidoo, Jersin Ruiz Ramoz, Kareem Barrett, Moaaz Naanah and Kevin Hernandez.

The defense will be led by Scothy Marc, Briyans Jeoboham, Donalson Jean and Marcos Da Mota Dornelas, and they’ll play in front of goalkeeper Kervenson Joseph.

“Samuel Fels High School has many students, from a variety of countries throughout the world, who love playing soccer,” said coach Dr. Paul Linder. “The principal (Ms. Rapser), assistant principals (Sean Ryan, Sara Calabrese and Amanda Mahoney), athletic director (Malvin Carrion) and other staff members come to games and support the soccer teams.

“(We are) moving from D2 to D1 this school year. It is going to be a big challenge for the team to face large high schools like Northeast and Central. The Fels players are looking forward to the challenge, will try their best, and continue to make the school community and their family members proud.”

Steve Tetkowski credits dancing with helping him with football and soccer. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

George Washington

The Eagles played in the quarterfinals a season ago, and won five games during Public League play. That experience could pay off this year.

The team will be led by senior midfielder Gustavo Espinoza, an honor student who will serve as the main offensive threat for Washington.

Junior defender Stephen Tetkowski is also one of the top players in the Public League. He’ll work with defender Stiven Dosti. Another player leading the Eagles will be forward Adam Drouch, who contributed last year as a freshman.

“During preseason, our strengths look to be speed and going forward on counterattacks,” Washington coach Sean Decker said. “Our back line should be pretty solid.

“I told our boys the first day of preseason that our goal every season is to win a Public League championship. We have to be committed to working hard, playing within our system and contributing on the field to find success.”

Tacony Academy Charter

The Lions won the District 12 Class A championship last year, which sent them to the state tournament.

Coach Dennis Park hopes this year could be another great one.

The Lions will be led by goalie Ronald Hanratty. He’ll play behind a defense that includes Sergio Alvarez-Tovar and Ethan Montero.

The offense will include Jeremy Boakye, Rami Bouzaboul and Yario Aguilar.

Tacony returns an experienced squad, and another run is possible, especially against schools its own size.

“(We) return 17 players that played in the PIAA state tournament last season,” Park said. “Three-year varsity starter in goal Ronnie Hanratty will anchor a strong defense. Rami Bouzaboul and Yario Aguilar will lead a much-improved offense.

“The Lions will be in the hunt for the Liberty Division championship and another trip to the PIAA state tournament.”

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