Here are 11 of the county's best players, who should contribute to an exciting season: *Shane Dougherty (Sophomore, forward), Fallston -- Dougherty, 15, is a two-time member of the Region I Olympic Developmental soccer team for his age group. He stands just 5-foot-5 but has added 12 pounds and weighs 140.
Dougherty made the regional team this past summer for the second time with the highest possible marks. At Fallston last season, Dougherty became only the second freshman ever to start on a varsity soccer team for the Cougars.
"He's got a quick shot and won't get knocked off the ball so much this year," says third-year Fallston coach Len Petrey. "His credentials speak for themselves."
*Chris Eatough (Junior, midfielder/defender), Fallston -- Eatough, 5-10, 165 pounds, was a pleasant surprise for coach Len Petrey this season. He came to the program with excellent skills, lots of experience and an ability to help control a game. He is a transfer player from Manchester, England. Petrey calls Eatough "a level-headed player" and a "welcome addition" to the Cougars squad after a disappointing 3-7 season a year ago.
*Mike Eves (Senior, forward/midfielder), Bel Air -- Eves was the Bobcats' second leading scorer last season with seven goals and four assists. He ended the season impressively, scoring a pair of goals in the Bobcats' 3-1 victory over Franklin in the Class 3A Region III championship game. The speedy 6-1, 170-pounder, is a rugged offensive threat who can hold his own in a physical contest. An opportunist, Eves is good at positioning himself for scoring runs setting himself or his teammates to score.
*Vince Grigora (Senior, midfielder), Bel Air -- Entering his second season as a varsity player, Grigora learned a lot while playing with All-County defender and former teammate Lance Thompson a year ago. "If there's a complete player in this county, Vince is him," says coach Bill Jefferson. "He not only knows his position but also what everyone else is supposed to be doing. He can play anywhere from the offense to the defense." Grigora, a 6-foot-3, 170-pounder, is fast, strong and is a good ball-handler.
*Kevin Hertless (Senior, forward), C. Milton Wright -- A transfer from Richmond, Va., Hertless "is a speedster with exceptional skill -- maybe the best player I've had here," says 11th-year coach Paul Snyder. Hertless, who had scored three goals in a recent scrimmage, has good field vision, a powerful shot and penetrates effectively. At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Hertless may be hard to stop once he builds momentum. Above all, Hertless is a ball control player who likes using skillful moves to juke defenders.
*Brian Kocur (Senior, midfielder, fullback), Edgewood -- A third-year varsity player, Kocur was a stalwart on defense last year. With several defensive players returning, coach John Low will move Kocur to the midfield often this season where his anticipation and ball control skills will bolster the transition. "He has the speed to mark good strikers and an ability to cover the entire field," says Low. With more confidence in the Rams' backfield, look for Kocur to play more of an offensive role this season.
*Tony Milam (Senior, forward/midfielder), C. Milton Wright -- Milam, a returning All-County player, will be the captain of this year's Mustangs' squad. Back after scoring eight goals last season, Milam is an aggressive striker with a good blend of strength and speed up front. He scored two each in goals and assists in scrimmages already and is both a solid scorer and an unselfish playmaker. Milam also plays good defense when he slips back into the midfield.
*John Pellegrini (Senior, midfield/forward), John Carroll -- Pellegrini was an All-County, All-Maryland Scholastic Association Conference and All-Metro player last year. Having scored seven goals for last year's MSA A champion Patriots, Pellegrini was also the team's third best goal-scorer.
Coach John Hughes says Pellegrini will direct the team from both the midfield and the forward line this season. An A-student, Pellegrini hopes to be playing soccer at either Drexel (Pa.) University or Loyola College in Baltimore next fall.
*Justin Smith (Senior, defender), North Harford -- "He's a field general," says North Harford coach Ed Zorn of Smith. "He can play aggressive defense or push up on offense." After playing last season in the midfield, the 6-foot-1, 160 pound Smith moves into the backfield as part of a defense that stands over 6 feet. A fundamentally sound player, Smith plays a formidable aerial game. By using his head on restarts, corner kicks and dead ball situations, Smith will also pose a dangerous scoring threat.
*Zack Thornton (Senior, goalkeeper), John Carroll -- Officially, Thornton had nine shutouts last season. He also had seniors Greg Goles and Joe Helfrich -- a pair of three-year starting defenders -- in front of him.
"This year, he's much more confident," says Coach John Hughes. Hughes thinks highly of Thornton, who already has recorded four shutouts this season. A brilliant athletic specimen, Thornton is well-equipped for his position with an imposing 6-foot-3, 215-pound muscular frame. He plays basketball for the Patriots and his huge hands that can "palm" a basketball. "He's got outstanding quickness. He's fearless and his anticipation is better. He's making the right moves."
*Justin Zimmerman (Senior, midfielder), Bel Air -- A three-year starter for coach Bill Jefferson, Zimmerman has been a mainstay on the Bobcats' squad. "He does a good job as a distributor," says Jefferson of Zimmerman, a 5-foot-10, 150-pounder. Displaying his versatility last season, Zimmerman alternated from the midfield to the backfield. His ball-control abilities in the midfield are even more important this season to help keep pressure off of a young Bel Air defense.