Signal Item boys soccer preview: Carlynton has championship potential

Thursday, September 10, 2020 | 10:16 PM

The 2020 high school sports season is underway. A season once thought to be in jeopardy of being canceled or possibly moved to the spring has kicked off for athletes playing football, field hockey, volleyball, golf, tennis, cross-country and soccer.

Four area boys soccer teams reached the WPIAL playoffs a year ago and hope to build on that success this fall.

Carlynton finished as co-section champs with Springdale in Section 3-A with an overall record of 15-2-0. The Cougars beat Serra Catholic and Seton LaSalle in the playoffs before losing to Winchester Thurston in the semifinals and missing out on a state playoff berth with a 2-1 loss to Springdale in the consolation match.

“I think last year was a great step forward for these guys,” Carlynton coach Nick Showman said. “Since I took over, I told these guys if they buy in to what the coaches are expecting from them, there is no ceiling for this team.”

The Cougars will have big shoes to field after the graduation of Class A Player of the Year, Carnel Kerr.

Carlynton does return eight starters though, including a pair of All-WPIAL players from last fall in Demetrius Howe and Ryon Fagon.

Also playing big roles for the Cougars will be senior striker Tarek Al-Hussain and junior midfielder Lukas Prepelka.

Bishop Canevin also was eliminated by Springdale in last year’s postseason. The Crusaders finished 9-6-2 after falling to the Dynamos, 2-1 in overtime in the Class A quarterfinals.

“Last year was very disappointing for the expectations we had for ourselves,” Bishop Canevin coach Albert Gestiehr said. “This year, the boys know that last year doesn’t matter and this is a brand-new team. Yes, we lost several key players for us, but the guys coming up feel like they have something to prove.”

Senior center forward Jack Staley, junior midfielder Francis Bochicchio and senior captain Joey Brooks will be key contributors this season for the Crusaders.

South Fayette finished second in Section 4-3A with both section losses coming to undefeated Franklin Regional. However, the Lions were stunned by Blackhawk in the first round of the district playoffs.

“Blackhawk was seeded considerably lower than they should’ve been last year and were a solid team,” South Fayette coach Rob Eldridge said. “We don’t associate last year’s results with what we do moving forward. We stick to a ‘get better each day’ mantra and focus on one match at a time.”

The Lions will be led by midfielder Chad Eldridge, a preseason All-American. Senior defenders Ethan Sanders and Cole Lutz along with sophomore midfielder Dan Gormley also will be leaned on to lead the Lions.

Garrett MacKenzie enters his seventh season as the head coach at Chartiers Valley.

The Colts have galloped to the WPIAL playoffs in each of the last four seasons, including a district championship in 2016. Last year, the team finished 7-7-2 and lost to Moon in the opening round.

“We have some experienced players and some younger guys that are looking to get some more experience at the varsity level,” MacKenzie said. “With all that has gone on, we didn’t get a chance to have our normal offseason, so that has hurt us in terms of getting some younger guys prepared to play big varsity minutes. It’s going to be a lot of games packed into a short amount of time, so staying healthy is going to be the key.”

The Colts will rely on all-section senior forward Riley Kutschbach, senior forward Trendon Khembo, senior midfielder Jake Nardei, senior goalie Will Kinchington and sophomore midfielder Joe Krug.

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