This week, Varsity Letters will take an in-depth look at the boys and girls soccer programs in various counties and leagues in the Baltimore area. On Wednesday, Howard County will be featured. Also, please be sure to check out the complete boys and girls soccer preview section, which is online now and running in today's print edition of The Baltimore Sun.
Here's a closer look at the Howard boys:
Since 1976, there only have been three seasons when a Howard County team didn’t reach a state championship game, and last year was one of them (joining 2008 and 1977).
In addition, Marriotts Ridge’s string of four straight state titles came to an end when Oakland Mills pulled out a 3-2 upset win in the Class 2A South regional playoffs. Oakland Mills and River Hill both reached the state tournament, but were knocked out in the semifinals.
Expect the county to bounce back with another season filled with highly qualified teams. Four are ranked in The Baltimore Sun’s top 15 preseason poll, with No. 5 River Hill tagged as the county's team to beat.
The Hawks will be led by forward Mike Heitzmann, and they have a strong surrounding cast at both ends. Center backs Jay Bucci and Ben Peters are both in their third year starting on varsity, and that experience and cohesiveness is invaluble.
Reservoir, ranked No. 10, has a new coach in Josh Sullivan, who guided the school's girls soccer team to a state title. The Gators also have one of the area’s most dominating defenders in Kyle Saunderson and also bring back their leading scorer in David Harris.
Oakland Mills lands at No. 13 in the poll, with No. 15 Marriotts Ridge trying to rebound with a young team. The Mustangs lost most of its offensive firepower from last year and look to improve on the go with an eye on the playoffs.
Don’t be surprised to see Mount Hebron also in the mix among the elite teams.