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Baltimore Sun boys soccer preview: Storylines, players to watch and top 15 teams heading into 2021 season

Here’s what you need to know for the 2021 high school boys soccer season in the Baltimore area:

Storylines to watch

After not participating last season due to COVID-19, can McDonogh pick up where they left off in 2019?

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McDonogh has the talent to match up with any team, but experience goes a long way in the area’s most challenging league, and that’s a concern for the perennial power. The Eagles only have two starters back from the 2019 team that captured a third straight MIAA A Conference crown, and those players didn’t have the benefit of learning from the senior-heavy group that didn’t get on the field last year. For coach Brandon Quaranta, the plan will mostly stay the same with the Eagles feeling their way through the early part of the season then making adjustments as they go to play their best when the playoffs arrive.

A pair of Centennial teammates console each other as Marriotts Ridge teammates celebrate their 1-0 win during the Howard County championship game at Wilde Lake High School on April 16.
A pair of Centennial teammates console each other as Marriotts Ridge teammates celebrate their 1-0 win during the Howard County championship game at Wilde Lake High School on April 16. (Brian Krista/Baltimore Sun Media)

With another challenging season to come in Howard County, what could make the difference?

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Among the upper echelon teams, the battle to win the middle will go a long way in deciding which team comes out on top. With the midfield talent in the county at a surplus, it will be fun to watch. Mt. Hebron features Jimmy Linsenmeyer and Liam McCaffery. Centennial has Cameron Grable and Eddie Aguilar with Andrew Fritz also likely to see time at midfield. River Hill leans on Antonio Paulino and Jack Nelson. Marriotts Ridge’s Kaden Bryan and Reservoir’s Nathan Macek have game-changing ability. Expect to see a high level of play from many of the top senior midfielders who are hungry for team success.

In Anne Arundel County, how will the addition of Crofton High affect neighboring schools and the county picture?

Arundel will be affected the most, with the Wildcats losing a good amount of student athletes who attend Crofton, while South River also will see some of its players move on. The youth programs in the area will continue to pour out talent, but will be sending players to three schools instead of two. With quality coaching and talent to work with, expect all three high school programs to be solid, but each will be diluted because of the shared talent pool. Over the long haul for the three programs, it will make trying to stay with perennial powers Severna Park and Broadneck more challenging.

When the state playoffs roll around, which regions in the area jump out?

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Howard County is always tightly contested, and even after a champion is declared, many of the perennial powers compete in the 3A East playoffs. Section I is particularly strong, featuring Mt. Hebron, Centennial and Marriotts Ridge. There might be no stronger rivalry than Harford County foes C. Milton Wright and Bel Air, who often meet in the Class 3A North. The Mustangs, who won state titles in 2017 and 2018 and reached the title game in 2019, often have had their most significant playoff push against the Bobcats. In Class 4A North Section I play, Perry Hall and Catonsville are the favorites to capture Baltimore County and might have their seasons on the line against each other in regional play.

Wilde Lake fans celebrate after the Wildecats defeat C. Milton Wright, 1-0 in overtime, to win the 3A boys soccer state championship in 2019.
Wilde Lake fans celebrate after the Wildecats defeat C. Milton Wright, 1-0 in overtime, to win the 3A boys soccer state championship in 2019. (Doug Kapustin For Baltimore Sun Media/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Which public school teams will return to state tournament play this season as defending champions from 2019?

Two area teams claimed state championships in 2019 with Wilde Lake edging C. Milton Wright, 1-0, in Class 3A and Century getting past La Plata, 1-0, for the 2A title. Montgomery County’s Walt Whitman won the 4A with a 3-1 win over Leonardtown, and Allegany’s Mountain Ridge was 1A champions after beating Francis Scott Key, 3-0.

Players to watch

Calvert Hall's Cody Angelini chases the ball as Nathanal Comi-Morog of Loyola Blakefield tries to slow him down during a 2019 game.
Calvert Hall's Cody Angelini chases the ball as Nathanal Comi-Morog of Loyola Blakefield tries to slow him down during a 2019 game. (Kim Hairston / Baltimore Sun)

Cody Angelini, Calvert Hall, midfielder, junior

One of nine starters back, Angelini jump-starts the team’s possession game to help the Cardinals get the most out of the talent they bring to the field. A three-year starter at center midfield, he brings energy with great vision and skills to consistently win balls and distribute effectively.

Marriotts Ridge sophomore midfielder Kaden Bryan finished the spring 2021 season with eight goals and seven assists.
Marriotts Ridge sophomore midfielder Kaden Bryan finished the spring 2021 season with eight goals and seven assists. (photo courtesy of Brooks Ford)

Kaden Bryan, Marrotts Ridge, midfielder, junior

As last season progressed, the center midfielder emerged as a dominant force, controlling the middle and finishing with eight goals and seven assists in leading the Mustangs (6-5) to the Howard County championship. Bryan’s creativity, awareness and confidence consistently produces scoring opportunities for himself and his teammates.

Danny Caparotti, South Carroll, midfielder/forward, senior

In his fourth year on varsity, Caparotti is Carroll County’s most dangerous scoring threat, relying on his quick feet and field sense to find his way to goal or set up teammates. In leading the Cavaliers to a 5-2-1 mark in last year’s condensed season, he finished with eight goals and five assists for a county-high 23 points.

Zach Eichelberger, Perry Hall, forward, senior

A four-year starter, Eichelberger is fearless with the ball at his feet and the results are often big goals. Bringing tough-to-match pace, ball skills and the confidence to take on several defenders, the Gator is a proven finisher. He has 20 career goals, including eight in seven games last season.

Jake Epstein, Hereford, defender/midfielder, senior

Between the penalty areas, Epstein is tough as nails with a nonstop work ethic to do all the needed little things that add up to wins. An impact player in consecutive trips to the state semifinals earlier in his career, the four-year starter constantly wins the tough balls and displays good vision to connect with teammates.

Reservoir's Nathan Macek beats River Hill's Isaac Van Ert to the ball for a header during a Howard County tournament quarterfinal matchup between Reservoir and River Hill on April 8.
Reservoir's Nathan Macek beats River Hill's Isaac Van Ert to the ball for a header during a Howard County tournament quarterfinal matchup between Reservoir and River Hill on April 8. (Jeffrey F. Bill/Baltimore Sun Media)

Nathan Macek, Reservoir, midfielder, senior

Flanked at left midfield, Macek is one of the area’s most versatile and efficient assets with his ability to handle defensive responsibilities and be and effective scoring threat. The four-year varsity player led the Gators in scoring for a second straight season last year, finishing with nine goals — including four game-winners — and an assist in 10 games.

Skyler McCarthy, Old Mill, goalkeeper, senior

McCarthy has all the quality assets found in goal: agility, composure, communication and command of the penalty area. Always poised with a knack for making the big saves, his presence brings confidence to the Patriots. In his third year as a starter, he has a 12-3-1 record with seven shutouts.

McDonogh's Jacob Murrell is surrounded by numerous Loyola Blakefield defenders during an MIAA A semifinal game in 2019.
McDonogh's Jacob Murrell is surrounded by numerous Loyola Blakefield defenders during an MIAA A semifinal game in 2019. (Amy Davis/Baltimore Sun)

Jacob Murrell, McDonogh, forward, senior

No player in the area might be more important to his team than Murrell, who will lead the talented but largely inexperienced Eagles. A dynamic playmaker, the Georgetown commit finished with 41 goals and 15 assists in 30 games playing in the Elites Club National League in the spring.

Catonsville's Tacho Tha chases Mount St. Joe's Brian St. Martin down the sideline in the first half of a 2019 game.
Catonsville's Tacho Tha chases Mount St. Joe's Brian St. Martin down the sideline in the first half of a 2019 game. (Doug Kapustin/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Brian St. Martin, Mount St. Joseph, midfielder, senior

A Maryland commit and four-year varsity player, St. Martin brings versatile skills with speed and aggressiveness to provide the Gaels with a steadying influence. Based on the situation, expect to see St. Martin (four goals, three assists last season) making an impact all over the field.

Ricky Schissler, Archbishop Curley, defender, senior

Having started every game since his freshman year, the smooth center back is the heart and key piece in the Friars’ lineup. He consistently brings a high work rate, tenacity, field sense and ball skills to jump-start the short passing game.

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Preseason top 15 teams

1. Calvert Hall

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Coach: Rich Zinkand

Last season: 4-2

Outlook: With 12 players back, including nine starters, no team in the area brings more experienced talent to the field this fall, making Calvert Hall the team to beat in the mighty MIAA A Conference. With center midfielder Cody Angelini dictating play, the Cardinals will play a finely-tuned possession game looking to get plenty of players forward to keep opponents on edge.

2. McDonogh

Coach: Brandon Quaranta

Last season: DNP

Outlook: After three straight MIAA A titles, the Eagles skipped last season because of the pandemic, and a largely new nucleus looks to grow up fast to maintain the program’s lofty standards. Senior forward Jacob Murrell and junior center midfielder Tyler Tucker are the proven game-changing players with McDonogh’s inexperienced talent primed to step up.

3. Mount Saint Joseph

Coach: Mike St. Martin

Last season: 8-0

Outlook: With a senior-dominated team, the Gaels ran the table in the shortened 2020 season, ending No. 2 in the nation, according to TopDrawer Soccer. Quality experience returns — senior midfielder Brian St. Martin, senior defender Andre Israel and junior forward Shan Chung are the starting points — with a hungry surrounding cast looking to make their mark.

Curley's Brady Geho, center, celebrates with Ricky Schissler during a game against Concordia Prep in 2019.
Curley's Brady Geho, center, celebrates with Ricky Schissler during a game against Concordia Prep in 2019. (Kenneth K. Lam)

4. Archbishop Curley

Coach: Barry Stitz

Last season: 5-3

Outlook: A solid nucleus returns — 15 players, including seven starters, from last year — to make the Friars a formidable foe in the MIAA A. Senior center back Ricky Schissler, a four-year starter, sets the tone with tenacity and skills to jump-start the team’s possession game. Junior forward Brady Geho will be a key cog up front.

5. Mt. Hebron

Coach: Mike Linsenmeyer

Last season: 9-1

Outlook: The Vikings come into play with a wealth of experienced talent — seven returning starters — and a considerable chip on their shoulder after going undefeated in the condensed regular season and then falling in the opening round of the Howard County tournament. Senior midfielders Jimmy Linsenmeyer and Liam McCaffery, both four-year starters, own the middle of the field while smooth senior defender Mark Adja anchors a cohesive back line.

Mt. Hebron's Jimmy Linsenmeyer clears the ball away from Reservoir's Aidan Atang during a game on March 30.
Mt. Hebron's Jimmy Linsenmeyer clears the ball away from Reservoir's Aidan Atang during a game on March 30. (Kevin Richardson / Baltimore Sun)

6. Severna Park

Coach: Ryan Parisi

Last season: 5-0

Outlook: Deep and talented in the middle and up front, the Falcons should have plenty of success controlling the flow each game and scoring goals. Midfielders Christian Lenart and Ben Groseclose bring savvy play with forward Gus Bachmann a top scoring option. Goalie Brandon Asch will get help from defender Brady Denman in keeping things sturdy in back.

7. Loyola Blakefield

Coach: Lee Tschantret

Last season: DNP

Outlook: The Dons will be young this season, leaning on returning goalie Jordy Eckman to keep them in games. With Maryland-bound standout Matias DeJesus out for the season because of injury, the Dons will count on Landon Lackner and Evan Onote to hold down the middle, with center back Gavin Carmichael providing support for Eckman.

8. C. Milton Wright

Coach: Brian Tully

Last season: DNP

Outlook: A largely new cast will try to pick up where the program left off in 2019 when it made a third straight state title game. The midfield brings stability with Jake Kegley, a steady contributor two years ago, primed for a go-to role and Adrian Gonzalez another key fixture as the team’s lone returning starter. The Mustangs have vital starting points for continued success: speed, physicality and a strong work rate.

9. John Carroll

Coach: Jim Fendryk

Last season: 1-2

Outlook: The Patriots are young — they expect to start seven sophomores — and while they are likely to still be a year away from serious contention in the MIAA A, this season serves an important building block. Senior center back Eric Schultz and junior center midfielder Ryan Skandalis are the steadying influences who provide leadership. Fendryk called this the most talented team he has fielded in his 12 years.

Perry Hall's Brennan Eibner (16) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-tying goal against Towson in the Baltimore County championship game on April 16.
Perry Hall's Brennan Eibner (16) celebrates with teammates after scoring the game-tying goal against Towson in the Baltimore County championship game on April 16. (Ulysses Muñoz/The Baltimore Sun)

10. Perry Hall

Coach: Pete Eibner

Last season: 6-2

Outlook: The Gators have the ingredients — most notably team chemistry — to challenge for Baltimore County supremacy and make a significant playoff run. Forward Zach Eichelberger brings skills and tenacity to the big moments and he’s surrounded by a skillful group that is quick to connect passes. Senior Brennan Eibner makes smart decisions at center midfield, forward Jacob Foley is another scoring threat and goalkeeper Sean Knox holds things together on the back line.

11. Centennial

Coach: Justin Thomas

Last season: 8-2

Outlook: With one of the area’s most gifted midfields — three-year starters Andrew Fritz, Cameron Grable and Eddie Aguilar — the Eagles have a solid foundation to build on. Seven starters return in all, with defender Sammy Mols another key three-year starter, to help offset the loss of the team’s top three scorers from last season.

12. River Hill

Coach: Matt Shagogue

Last season: 7-3

Outlook: With six starters back from last season and some new talent ready to emerge, the Hawks will lean on an experienced midfield and an organized, collective effort on defense to grind out wins. Antonio Paulino and Jack Nelson bring versatile skills to headline the midfield, and forward Aidan Edwards is a key threat up top.

Catonsville's Noah Gregory looks for a teammate during a 2019 game against Dulaney.
Catonsville's Noah Gregory looks for a teammate during a 2019 game against Dulaney. (Nicole Munchel for the Baltimore/Baltimore Sun Media Group)

13. Catonsville

Coach: Brendan Kennedy

Last season: 3-3-1

Outlook: Coming off a condensed season, a major advantage for any team is experience and depth. The Comets have both with nine starters back and versatile bench players. With midfielders Nick Sirasky and Noah Gregory, forward Brian Barrientos and goalkeeper Brian Ruppel taking lead roles, the Comets will look to play a possession game to battle for the top spot in Baltimore County.

14. South River

Coach: Marlyn Argueta

Last season: 3-2

Outlook: An experienced, cohesive group with nine starters back will take the field at South River with lofty expectations. A special midfield duo in seniors Christian Gionis and Ned Schauermann brings high skills and smarts to control the flow in front of a tidy defense led by goalie Jay Jenkins. Some younger players up front will look to step up and score goals.

15. Marriotts Ridge

Coach: Quinn Khouri

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Last season: 6-5

Outlook: The Mustangs return five starters and are feeling confident after closing out last season with four straight wins to claim the Howard County championship as the ninth-seeded team. Center midfielder Kaden Bryan (eight goals, seven assists last season) is the team’s dynamic focal point with forward Michael Ott senior outside back Luke Jantac also expected to play vital roles.

Others considered: Broadneck (2-3), Hereford (2-3-1), Liberty (8-0), Reservoir (6-4), Towson (7-0)

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