HOWARD COUNTY, MD — Glenelg coach Josh Hatmaker has been around long enough to know that preseason predictions don’t mean much, if anything. It’s why he’s not putting much stock into the fact the Gladiators are heavy favorites to repeat as county champions and to make a run at another state championship. They were last year, too, and they ultimately watched Marriotts Ridge celebrate a double overtime playoff victory on their turf before the Mustangs reeled off three more wins en route to their first state title.
Hatmaker says it’s no different this year. Glenelg’s success will ultimately be decided by what it does in May, not March. That, in all likelihood, means going through Marriotts Ridge again.
“I’m not trying to downplay how talented my kids are,” he said, “but I’ve been doing it long enough that if we have a season like we had last year, Marriotts Ridge is still sitting there.”
Mustangs coach Tony Incontrera knows it too. He says Glenelg is always in the back of his player’s heads.
“Glenelg definitely returns a ton on offense and we return four of our top poles and Colin Kelley in the cage. There is that match that is setup for this year,” Incontrera said. “It will be very interesting. You can’t downplay it; it will be a huge game and we expect to see them in the playoffs as well.”
The Gladiators had the county’s most potent offense in 2018 and it is expected to be just as good this season. They return first-team All-County attackman Michael Doughty (24 goals, 54 assists in 2018), midfielder Tyler Reiff (43G, 7A) and second-team midfielder Ryan Hopkins (22G, 16A), and faceoff specialist Mason Davis (64 percent). Defensively, they lack experience but not talent.
Also carrying over to this spring is the majority of the gritty Mustangs defense. Kelley, twice a first-team All-County goaltender who is committed to Mercer University, is a preseason favorite to be the county Player of the Year after registering 147 saves and a save percentage of 65. Ricky Fedorchak is one of the best one-on-one defenders in the league and a first-team All-County player who will be helped on defense by second-teamer Andrew Page. Faceoff specialist Andrew Luciano (61 percent) will also be a difference maker.
Howard, as usual, will have a say in which teams win the county title. The Lions went 6-1 in county and 16-2 overall last year and won their fifth region title in six years in the 4A North region, and they return key players up and down the field.
Jeff Bruner (21G, 18A) will man the midfield, while UMBC commit Ben Stephanos will anchor a defensive unit that allowed fewer than five goals per game a year ago. Goalie Matt Hubbard, an Elizabethtown College commit, also has starting experience and actually led the county with a 67 save percentage in limited action in 2018.
Replacing the offensive production of Mark Bruner, who scored a league-best 57 goals last year, will be key, but Creighton likes what he has in the midfield, calling it an athletic group with good speed.
While it went just 5-4 in county play, Centennial hit its stride at the right time last year, winning the 3A East region title and falling one goal short of playing for a state championship. The Eagles have six starters back, including first-team All-County defender Stafford Smith and second-teamers Peter Krawczyk (50G, 16A) on attack and Charlie Hockersmith (31G, 7A) and Ty Sams (15G, 23A) in the midfield.
Replacing 100-point scorer and the program’s all-time points leader, Jeremy Wilson, will be difficult but Eagles coach Nick Kellinger thinks there is enough talent in the fold to overcome it and make another playoff run.
“We have a lot of experience. Many of our starters have been playing significant minutes for the last two seasons,” he said. “Last year we were one goal away from playing for a state championship and we are desperate to get there this year.”
Looking past River Hill would be a mistake for any team this year. Eight starters return for the Hawks and none will have a bigger impact than Max Friedman, who missed all of 2018 with a torn ACL but was a second-team All-County selection after tallying 30 goals and 10 assists in 2017. Senior midfielders Ryan Henry (11G, 4A) and Josh Weingrad (4G, 7A) are also poised for more success this spring, while senior goaltender Kevin Hickey (47 save percentage) will be starting for a third straight year.
Finding ways to score after losing Brendan McKenna and his 46 goals to graduation will be something to watch, but coach Keith Gonsouland says the biggest key to success will be winning faceoffs.
Mt. Hebron and Atholton also expect to be more competitive this spring.
The Vikings have an athletic and experienced defense that will need to stay consistent to allow a young but talented offense time to flourish. Junior attackman Mateo Brown (38G, 14A) will carry the load offensively with junior midfielder Garrett Snyder (32G, 16A) on the mend after tearing his ACL in the summer, but defender Brennan Olds and goalie Cody Stockenberg (51 save percentage) should lead an improved defense.
The Raiders, meanwhile, will rely on defensemen Danny Florenzo, Stephan Young and Jake Perret in front of returning starting goaltender Ben Dotson. Offensively, Nolan Krasnick (17G, 11A), Justin Ahmuty (13G, 3A) and Brian Tarantino (5G) will lead the way.
Reservoir doesn’t have much depth but does boast one of the best players in the county in senior Talon Campbell, who had 49 goals as a sophomore and 48 goals and 14 assists last season en route to earning a first-team All-County midfield spot. Campbell, a UMBC commit, is on pace to become the Gators’ all-time leading point scorer.
Coach Bryan Cole said their success will be dependent on how fast the young players — they have eight sophomores and two freshmen on varsity — adjust to the varsity game.
Oakland Mills has a strong midfield, led by senior Danny Massillon, who had 91 ground balls and 16 caused turnovers last spring. But they will need more scoring from sophomore Joe Thompson (31G, 8A) and seniors Jonald Semprit, Dallas Briggs and Chase Williams to improve on last year’s 10-6 record.
Trevor Shea has taken over as head coach at Wilde Lake, which will be without a Tiffey brother for the first time in nine years. Players like midfielders Jackson Pittman (16G, 8A) and Jonathan Fontana (21G, 8A), as well as attackman Justin Dougherty and LSM Adam Loudin, will need to help fill the void left by Andrew Tiffey and his 42 goals last year.
There were more players at Hammond’s tryouts this month than ever before. Golden Bears coach Corey Zientarsky said the biggest determining factor for success this season will be staying healthy and the senior leadership amongst the team.
Long Reach coach Josh Thomas expects his team to make a jump in the county standings this spring thanks to more depth than ever and a full coaching staff. Team cohesion will be key, he says.
As for the private schools, Glenelg Country returns six starters and expects to be much improved in the MIAA B Conference. Coach Kevin Boland will rely on senior transfer Tristan McKneely, a faceoff specialist who is committed to Florida Tech, a slew of freshmen and senior leaders like Calder VandenHeuvel — a Loyola University commit — and Riley Martin (11G, 6A) to make a postseason run.
Chapelgate has one of the MIAA C Conference’s best players in senior midfielder Mark Rolewicz, who had 49 goals and 20 assists last year, to pair with seniors Matt Cavrak (15G, 13A) and Eric Yang (32G, 7A).
Key players: Seniors Jake Perret (D), Ben Dotson (G) and Justin Ahmuty (A); juniors Danny Florenzo (D), Stephan Young (D), Nolan Krasnick (M), Brian Tarantino (M) and Corey Pumphrey (M); sophomores Malcolm Jones (M) and Mason Meyerpeter (M).
2018 record: 5-4, 12-6 (3A East region champion)
Coach: Nick Kellinger
Returning starters: 6
Key players: Seniors Peter Krawczyk (A), Charlie Hockersmith (M), Stafford Smith (D) and Andrew Kauffman (M); juniors Ty Sams (M), Zach Grable (D) and Kieran Senisi (LSM).
2018 record: 8-0, 14-2 (Howard County champion)
Coach: Josh Hatmaker
Returning starters: 7
Key players: Seniors Michael Doughty (A), Tyler Reiff (M), Ryan Hopkins (M) and RJ Goodman (D); junior Mason Davis (FO).