A different mix of players has prompted a change in style for the Fallston High School boys soccer team, but there has been no change in the results. Games continue to be stamped in the win column.
That was the case last week, as the Cougars (5-0) opened their Harford County League schedule with a 6-0 victory over visiting Havre de Grace. It extended their county dominance into a fourth season, running that record to 19-0-3.
Havre de Grace marked the start of seven straight county games for Fallston, which will be at Bel Air Thursday, then home against Edgewood and North Harford.
Without the graduated Shane Dougherty, last year's All-Metro Player of the Year, and only a handful of returning players, the key to Fallston's season was how well the newcomers fit into what had to be a team concept. No more looking for that one player to score, secure in the knowledge he'd do whatever it took to win.
Last year, Dougherty scored 13 of Fallston's 27 playoff goals in its romp to the Class 1A state championship. Now, not only is Dougherty gone, but also the 1A label -- the school has stepped up to Class 2A.
"We want to get 11 players moving on offense and defense -- a strong transition game -- and we want everybody able to pass as well as shoot, to look for the open man," coach Len Petrey said.
"And we don't have anyone with Shane's talent of being marked and still able to make things happen."
Actually, with nine newcomers on a 15-player squad, it is a team that still is developing.
Much of the leadership burden has been picked up by four seniors -- co-captains Steve Schissler and Fred Sheckells, plus Brian Benner and Kevin Morgan. A fifth senior, Brian Sapp, is out for the season with a knee injury.
"I figured it would be a lot different this year," Schissler said. "We knew we'd have to work more as a team because of the younger people.
"The early games against Loyola and Hammond were rough, but then we started to pick it up [beating Wilde Lake and Elkton]. It takes time."
Sheckells is more comfortable with the different style, although he is still adjusting to a new position.
"I like this better, because I was brought up in a style based on moving the ball," he said. "You play that type in club ball, and since most of us came up that way, it's more natural."
NTC Last year, he played an outside halfback, but with a move to the middle has come more responsibility.
"Now, I'm trying to look in about eight different directions instead two or three, and sometimes I catch myself running in circles," he said.
Petrey considers his co-captains two of the team's steadier players and pointed to Sheckells as having stepped up his play to another level.
"He has done a good job in the middle, seeing the passing lanes and distributing the ball," Petrey said.
Of Schissler's solid play at fullback, he said: "For the most part, he doesn't make mistakes, and knowing his limitations, doesn't try to do things of which he's not capable."
During the preseason, Petrey was aware of his team's skill level, but wondered if the players would have the composure when it counted.
"We've made some progress, but this is something that has to develop over a long period of time. And the tougher games are still ahead," he said.
A practice emphasis on getting everyone to shoot is reflected in eight players having scored at least one goal. Where four players accounted for the first 11 goals, four others joined them with a goal apiece against Havre de Grace.
Part of the new players' ability to step into starting roles comes from having scrimmaged against the varsity when they were JV players.
"They've been exposed to the system," Petrey said. "They know me and they see what it takes."
They know Tony Riedlbauer, too, because the assistant coach is critical to the winning equation. Petrey calls him the best tactical soccer mind in the county, and Riedlbauer has shown that if the players listen to him, and do what he says, things work out.
L One of things working out is junior Eric McPhee in the goal.
"He made a couple of big saves against Elkton [a 3-0 win], and did a good job against Havre de Grace [his third shutout]," Petrey said. "He got a lot of confidence from those games and that will help us, because we absolutely need him if we are going to go anywhere."
Junior Mike Giuffrida leads the team with six goals and three assists, followed by Morgan (five goals and one assist). Benner, one of six other players with one goal, shares the assist lead with three.