Atholton has had a knack for playing in more than its share of exciting soccer games in recent years.
Last season, six of its 13 games were decided by one goal, and two of those in overtime. Three games were decided by two goals.
For the second straight season, Atholton lost an overtime shootout to Centennial in the regional championship game.
Fifth-year Raiders coach Reg Hahne hopes that the exciting tradition continues, although his team graduated 10 seniors including all of its impact players from last season's 9-4-1 team.
It will be difficult to replace Derek Phillips (12 goals, 2 assists), Alex Denno (4, 4) and Jeff May (2, 10).
Although Atholton has only five returning seniors, Hahne is optimistic because no other county team has more than six seniors.
Atholton had a large turnout of 65 players. Hahne is keeping 25 on varsity.
The team will lack speed and impact players like Phillips and Denno, but will have good senior leaders and a bunch of solid, dedicated athletes.
The key for Atholton will be the middle. Hahne thinks senior midfielder Adam Shaivitz, junior striker Damian Kapcala and senior sweeper Kevin Pryse will be the make-or-break players.
Kapcala must step up and become Atholton's main scoring threat, Shaivitz must control the midfield and Pryse must anchor a defense that may start a freshman goalkeeper, Andy Walter.
Returning defenders include senior Ben Garbart and junior Ryan Rees along with Pryse. Returning midfielders are seniors Jake Grether and Matt Salganik along with Shaivitz. Junior Ben Rhode returns at for ward.
Hahne expects that all of his seniors will start, but that leaves plenty of room for younger players like junior midfielder Richard Buehler who can also play forward.
Sophomore midfielder Randy Greenbaum played against Centennial in the regional championship game last season, so he could start.
"We have a lot of traveling team players who are coachable and work hard," Hahne said. "But the premier team this year should be Centennial, because they have so many dynamic sophomores and juniors. And Oakland Mills will also be a threat."
Atholton, which dropped from Class 3A to 2A this season -- away from Centennial which is 3A -- has made three scheduling changes from last season.
Gone from the schedule are Kennedy, Bethesda-Chevy Chase and Meade. Added to the schedule are Northeast, Gonzaga and Riverdale Baptist.
The changes should make the season less difficult for the Raiders.