Northeast Times

Fancy footwork

It’s time for high school soc­cer squads to get their kicks. Score a glimpse of your fa­vor­ite neigh­bor­hood team in the North­east Times’ soc­cer pre­view.

Over the past few years, a lot has changed on North­east Phil­adelphia’s soc­cer scene. Of course, the Cath­ol­ic League is still get­ting used to the ab­sence of North Cath­ol­ic and Car­din­al Dougherty. This year, Frank­ford has up­graded to the A Di­vi­sion. And oth­er squads that have dec­ades of his­tory — Arch­bish­op Ry­an, Fath­er Judge and Samuel Fels, to name a few — con­tin­ue to em­brace their tra­di­tion of ex­cel­lence.

However, in a sport that is con­stantly evolving, one thing has re­mained the same. The school teams in North­east Phil­adelphia re­main com­pet­it­ive and pas­sion­ate about their sport. 

So what can you ex­pect from your fa­vor­ite neigh­bor­hood squads? Here’s a look at the Raid­ers, Cru­saders, Railsplit­ters, Eagles, Pi­on­eers, Vik­ings and Pan­thers. 

Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League

Arch­bish­op Ry­an

The Arch­bish­op Ry­an High School soc­cer squad has es­tab­lished it­self as a power­house in the Phil­adelphia Cath­ol­ic League. 

This year should be no dif­fer­ent. 

The Raid­ers have eight re­turn­ing play­ers this sea­son, provid­ing a wealth of varsity ex­per­i­ence. Two-time first-team All-Cath­ol­ic mid­field­er Kev­in Nelms will serve as team co-cap­tain with All-Cath­ol­ic sweep­er Matt Mar­tinez. 

An­gel Lu­vi­ano and Brett Beau­mont, both ju­ni­ors, will work as strikers. Mid­field­er Ry­an Stevens — also a re­turn­ing All-Cath­ol­ic play­er — will join stop­per Miguel Ren­don and wings Lou Si­mone and Mike Bozzelli in the mid­field. Fresh­man at­tack­er Mi­chael Kirby will also con­trib­ute. 

Jim Smith and Kev­in Gaum will guide the Raid­ers’ de­fense. Sopho­more Jared Ott and ju­ni­or Mar­cus Otto will share goal­tend­ing re­spons­ib­il­it­ies. 

“We have a de­cent situ­ation where we have play­ers back from last year’s team,” said Raid­ers coach George Todt, who is now in his 43rd year of coach­ing on the pitch. “The goal is to get ready, play hard through the sea­son and get to the end. I think we’ll be one of the team’s con­tend­ing for a cham­pi­on­ship.”

Fath­er Judge

The Fath­er Judge High School soc­cer team has an abund­ance of youth on this year’s squad, but ac­cord­ing to head coach John Dun­lop, they’re also stacked with tal­ent. 

“I think we have something really de­cent,” said Dun­lop, who has guided the Cru­saders to a pair of Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on­ship titles, two city titles and a state cham­pi­on­ship in the past three years. “We’re go­ing to be young with a few pro­duct­ive seni­ors.”

Mid­field­er Kev­in Pohl, full­back Rich My­chal­ck and mid­field­er and for­ward Nick Battaglia — all seni­ors — will share team co-cap­tain re­spons­ib­il­it­ies this sea­son. 

Joey Han­son will work as a for­ward, with Justin Hiltwine and seni­or Kyle Ditsche in the mid­field. Twin broth­ers Von­tez and Vontae Hil­liard will handle both for­ward and mid­field du­ties. 

Fath­er Judge cur­rently has three goal­tenders who will share time guard­ing the net — seni­ors Ry­an Dipiero, and Dylan Trush and fresh­man Mark Pohl. 

Steph­en Smeck and Matt Matwiejczyk will an­chor the back­field. 

“The boys are work­ing hard,” said Dun­lop. “They’re really ex­cited.”

Phil­adelphia Pub­lic League

Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln

After a dis­ap­point­ing sea­son last year (4-7 over­all), the Ab­ra­ham Lin­coln soc­cer squad has nowhere to go but up. 

And that’s ex­actly what they plan to do. 

“We have a lot of work to do, but we’re get­ting there,” said head coach Neal Con­vey, now in his third sea­son as the Railsplit­ters’ boss. “I’m hop­ing to im­prove and get back to where the Lin­coln soc­cer pro­gram should be.”

Mid­field­ers in­clude seni­ors Danny Montano and Amir Al­barouki. 

Seni­or Mar­celino Cos­tilla and ju­ni­or Kev­in John­son will work as full­backs, with ju­ni­or goalie Wash­ing­ton Kim­ber round­ing out the Railsplit­ters’ core lineup. 

“We need to work to­geth­er as a team,” said Con­vey. “I’m ex­pect­ing them to im­prove with each game.”

George Wash­ing­ton

After los­ing some key play­ers to gradu­ation — in­clud­ing four start­ing de­fend­ers — the George Wash­ing­ton soc­cer team has some big shoes to fill. 

“It’s a work in pro­gress,” said Eagles head coach Chris Re­id, who guided his play­off squad to a 9-1-2 re­cord last sea­son. “We’re a lot young­er and less ex­per­i­enced, but I think we have po­ten­tial to be very good.”

Des­pite a pleth­ora of rook­ies on this year’s squad, the Eagles do have some vet­er­ans re­turn­ing to the pitch. Seni­or for­ward Wilo Mim­bar — a re­turn­ing All-Pub­lic who led the Eagles in scor­ing last year — will play a vi­tal lead­er­ship role on this year’s squad. 

Seni­or Math­eus Schaper and ju­ni­ors Duke Gbolue and Mo­bin Ab­dul will work the mid­field. Ju­ni­or Ja­bony Ramos will guard the net. 

“We’re look­ing for the older guys to lead the less ex­per­i­enced play­ers,” ex­plained Re­id. “We have a lot of strength up front and in the middle, but we’re young in the back­field.”

Fresh­man Mo­hamed Cunde — who will see play­ing time as a for­ward and mid­field­er — has earned a start­ing po­s­i­tion on the Eagles’ varsity squad. 

“He’s very young and very tal­en­ted. He’s def­in­itely a play­er to watch,” said Re­id. “We have some very skilled play­ers on the team. I’m very lucky.”

Frank­ford

The Frank­ford High School soc­cer team is shap­ing up to be­come ma­jor con­tenders in the Phil­adelphia Pub­lic League. 

“This year, I prob­ably am start­ing el­ev­en of the most tal­en­ted play­ers I’ve had since I’ve been coach­ing,” said Pi­on­eers boss Rob Shelton, who is now in his fifth sea­son as the Pi­on­eers’ boss. “We’re in good shape.”

Right wing Mustafa Alghazza­wi and left wing Eric Salguero will guide the Pi­on­eers’ of­fense this sea­son. Seni­or Jeff Marc and ju­ni­or An­thony Bravo will work the back­field. 

Ju­ni­or goal­tender Ken Ap­pi­ott will guard the net. 

Au­gusto Or­tega, Omar Cruz and Hec­tor Cerda — all play­ers on Frank­ford’s Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship base­ball team — will also con­trib­ute on the Pi­on­eers’ pitch.

“They have a good at­ti­tude, a ma­ture at­ti­tude,” Shelton said of the three ath­letes. “They bring hustle to the team.

“We have a lot of tal­en­ted play­ers,” he ad­ded. “Our goal is to get to the play­offs and take it from there. I think we’re cap­able of it. We’ll com­pete for a top place.”

North­east

The North­east High School soc­cer team dom­in­ated the com­pet­i­tion last year, mak­ing a Pub­lic League cham­pi­on­ship ap­pear­ance but fall­ing short of the title. This year, they’re ready to take it all the way. 

“We have thir­teen re­turn­ing play­ers, eight re­turn­ing starters,” said head coach Sam Feld­man. “We have a good mix and five mag­net (school) kids. So not only are they tal­en­ted, they’re smart.”

Seni­or strikers Shav­ar Shep­h­ard — the Vik­ings’ top scorer last year — and Kev­in Kur­eta are ex­pec­ted to lead North­east’s of­fense.

Half­backs in­clude Chris Black, Mo­hammed Ha­daihed, Sam Chan and Tyler Gorm­ley. 

The Vik­ings have a wealth of de­fend­ers on this year’s squad: seni­ors Ray Gre­ishele, Chris Mara and Richard Laurent, and Matt Fein­stein and Jorge Chavez. 

Seni­or Howard Lynn will once again handle goal­tend­ing re­spons­ib­il­it­ies. 

“I think we will get back to the cham­pi­on­ship again,” said Feld­man. “We’ll be very com­pet­it­ive.”

Samuel Fels

The Samuel Fels High School soc­cer pro­gram has had quite a few obstacles to over­come, and yet the Pan­thers con­tin­ue to suc­ceed on the pitch. 

“All of our games are away be­cause we have no home field,” ex­plained second-year coach George Ewerth, who guided the Pan­thers to an 11-1 over­all re­cord last sea­son. “We’re prac­ti­cing in the gym. Out­side, we have no lines and only one net that is beat up.

“The thing is, the kids are so happy to be a part of this,” he ad­ded. “We’re a fam­ily and we’re all really ex­cited to be here.”

Seni­or for­ward Musa Kamara — who net­ted 25 goals last sea­son, in­clud­ing three hat tricks — will lead the Pan­thers as team co-cap­tain. He’ll share the re­spons­ib­il­it­ies with co-cap­tain John Nothack­er, a util­ity play­er. 

Half­backs in­clude Elise Nothack­er — John’s sis­ter, who is eli­gible to play be­cause Samuel Fels does not have a girls soc­cer pro­gram — and Fernando Be­lilla, Jorge Ave­cilla and Quary­ee Arm­strong. 

Goalie Bernie Vilsint will round out the Pan­thers’ core. 

“We’re look­ing really good. We have our key play­ers back,” said Ewerth. “The kids have a great work eth­ic and we have a lot of sup­port form the ad­min­is­tra­tion. I think we have a good shot. We’re ready to com­pete.” ••

Ed­it­or Melissa Yerkov can be reached at my­erkov@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at myerkov@bsmphilly.com.

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