As a goalkeeper, Josh Kappes is the last line of defense and it’s a position that comes with immense pressure.
But entering his third season at the varsity level for the Winters Mill boys soccer team, Kappes, a Times first-team all-county selection in 2016 and 2017, is accustomed to the pressure.
“At first when I started it was really a lot of pressure, there were a lot more people watching,” he said. “Now getting into my last year, I’m more comfortable.”
The senior was one of Carroll County’s top goalkeepers last season. He tallied 161 saves and posted a .839 save percentage, good for third best among the group.
Winters Mill finished with a 5-7-1 (2-3-1 county) record last season, eventually falling to county foe Liberty in the first round of the Class 2A West playoffs.
Falcons coach Ryan Lenz attributed Kappes’ continued success to his precise footwork.
Whether it’s saving shots with the stretch of a leg or controlling the ball at the back end of the field, Kappes’ foot skills provide a certain level of comfort for the second-year head coach.
“He could probably be an all-county striker,” Lenz said. “His feet are so well that we feel safe going to back to him.”
For Kappes, having a short memory at the position is one the most important traits as a goalkeeper. While it’s impossible to save every shot his way, the ability to forget and move on to the next opportunity is key.
When he does make the perfect stop, there’s nothing like it.
“It’s the best feeling in the world,” Kappes said. “Just hearing everybody and then getting high fives from your friends is awesome.”
Kappes’ duties aren’t just limited to the pitch for the Falcons. He acts as a “second coach” for Lenz, who doesn’t have any official assistants on his staff.
It’s a unique role for a high school player but Kappes’ varsity experience and lead-by-example nature is a huge help for the young head coach.
“You could not ask for a better kid,” Lenz said. “It’s one less thing for me to worry about with him back there.”
Winters Mill enters a new season of optimism under Lenz and bolsters a young core of five underclassmen who’ve been brought up the varsity roster.
Lenz said the younger players are already buying into the team’s culture, set by Kappes and junior forward Edwin Romero, a fellow first-team all-county pick from 2017. Romero finished tied for third in the county with 12 goals.
The Falcons will battle tough county competition but have the luxury of possessing two of the five returning all-county players. Three of the county’s top scorers have graduated and a new pool of talent will be expected to take on the bulk of production
Liberty will look to defend its Carroll County Athletic League championship behind the leadership of senior Nick Duvall. The first-team all-county defender helped anchor a Lions defense that allowed just six goals in six county games.
Manchester Valley and Century are coming off exciting seasons after each secured a regional championship. The Mavericks won the 3A West regional title and have the luxury of returning the Times Player of the Year in Connor Allen, and first-team all-county defender in Declan Marvel.
The Knights won the 2A West regional title and will face the challenge replacing two talented all-county first-team selections in forward Chris Yanchoris and defender Dylan Breitenbach.
South Carroll went 9-5-1 under coach Tim Novotny and will look to regain county prominence. The Cavaliers lose the most all-county players of any team (three) and hope to see increased production from senior forwards Aidan Moffatt and Nick Simioncini.
First-team all-county midfielder Mitch Clark enters his senior season at Westminster. Two years removed from a county championship, the Owls hope to rebound from a 3-10-1 (1-5) season. Francis Scott Key looks to do the same after finishing winless in county competition.
The aspirations, for every team, is to win a state championship and Lenz believes the opportunity is plausible for the Falcons with Kappes in net.