Carroll County didn’t have a boys soccer team reach the state tournament last fall, after two teams made it that far the year before.
The county has a solid soccer tradition, but it hasn’t quite translated to the championship level. Carroll has six state titles since the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association established its playoffs system in 1969.
North Carroll won state crowns in 2013 and 2015, and Liberty won a title in 2005. Century (2003) and Francis Scott Key (1985, 1986) also have championships.
Carroll tries for another crown this fall, with two new coaches in the mix and a host of top offensive players having graduated in 2018.
Here are three things to watch this fall:
Ed Wharton is taking over as South Carroll’s new coach
When Tim Novotny took over as athletic director at South Carroll, the boys soccer varsity coaching position was open for the first time in 11 years. Wharton, who served as Novotny’s assistant for eight of those years, took advantage of the opportunity in replacing Carroll’s longest-tenured coach.
“I’ve got a pretty good relationship with a lot of the kids,” said Wharton, who works as a school counselor at South Carroll. “I guess it’s just them adjusting to seeing me in a slightly different role, I suppose.”
Wharton is one of two new coaches in the county this season. Former Century soccer player Trey Howes is taking over at his alma mater after Scott Booker stepped down following last season.
Wharton has spent time as a junior varsity girls soccer coach at South Carroll before joining the boys program, so he’s quite familiar with the players in the area. Wharton credited Novotny for building the Cavaliers’ strong foundation, and he’s hoping to keep that moving in the right direction.
The Cavs finished tied for third in the Carroll County Athletic League standings a year ago, and bowed out of the regional playoffs in a penalty-kick heartbreaker against rival Century. South Carroll is going after its first regional championship since 2013.
“None of that changes — we have the same high expectations," Wharton said. “Everything there stays the same. That atmosphere and expectations from the players has always been there as well.”
New faces have a chance to emerge as county’s top players
The 2018 Times all-county first team included 15 players, and 12 of them were seniors. Manchester Valley, the reigning county champion, lost four of those first-teamers. Westminster lost four as well.
Carroll graduated eight of the top 10 scorers from 2018, including the top four. But there are players primed to fill the void.
One of them could be SC senior Carter Chesney, whose 23 points were tied for fifth most in the county last fall. Chesney returns as go-to forward for Wharton.
Winters Mill brings back senior forward Ed Romero (23 points) as a potent scorer, along with sophomore Ben Weller (15 points) senior Jack Mitzelfelt (12). Liberty has Shane Ervin, a first-team all-county forward in 2018 who scored six goals and had 15 points.
Howes gets back senior Ryan Rolfes (seven goals, 14 points) after the forward led the Knights in scoring in 2018.
Goalies getting ready to seize an opportunity as new starters
The county’s top five goalies from 2018 won’t back for any repeat performances. Four of them — Century’s Brian Wallace, Liberty’s Justin Ricketts, Westminster’s Nate Burnett, and Winters Mill’s Josh Kappes — graduated. Man Valley’s Joey Hamm is listed as a defender on the Mavericks’ 2019 roster.
The goalkeepers each had solid seasons a year ago, with Hamm leading the county in save percentage (85.3) and Kappes (127 saves) earning another first-team all-county nod. Wallace collected 68 saves; Burnett had 78 and an 82.1 save percentage while also playing on Westminster’s golf team.