All three boys’ soccer teams in The Ledger Independent’s Kentucky coverage area were ousted in the semifinals of their respective district tournaments last season. With key returning players from each, Mason County, St. Patrick and Fleming County aim to make some noise this fall.
Here’s a brief look at each boys’ soccer team in the Kentucky coverage area:
The Royals graduated Bryce Johnson, their leading scorer from last season with 15 of the team’s 29 goals. They also lost Chase Stafford, who scored six times.
That doesn’t mean they won’t look to score this fall.
“What I instruct those kids every game is to score first and score often,” said first-year Mason County head coach Daniel Forsythe. “We would love to see it happen, but with the tough district we have, we could have a lot of close games that we’re grinding out until the last minute.”
Forsythe takes over for Andrew Bisotti, who took over the program for the 2015 season. Bisotti is pursuing a master’s degree, but is still serving as an assistant for Forsythe, who served as an assistant under Bisotti before becoming head coach.
“I’m very excited to be head coach. As a player it’s always something you think that’s potentially a goal in the future. I played at Mason County, so it’s pretty neat to coach there,” said Forsythe.
“One of the things when I interviewed for the position, I felt it was necessary to maintain some of that consistency,” added Forsythe. “Anyone can tell you, if you switch coaches multiple times and multiple years, you cannot build a program. You need one focus that continues.”
Johnson was one of the most prolific scorers in program history, finishing his career with 66 goals. Instead of one primary player putting the ball in the back of the net, the Royals will have to rely on a variety of players to get the job done.
“One of things I think we can benefit from not having one person focused on by opposing teams is that it forces ball distribution,” said Forsythe. “You have to have more than one person to be successful in this sport.”
Mason County does return Abe Grigsby, Parker Free, Brock Gilligan and Anwar Perry, who all scored at least once last season. Grigsby, a midfielder, and Gilligan, the Royals’ sweeper, are Mason County’s captains, along with goalkeeper Mario Soto.
Soto replaces Russ Gifford as the starting goalkeeper, after appearing in three games in the net as a junior. He allowed three goals.
Forsythe is also looking to Tate Williamson, Jordan Dunlap and Javase Lawson to help lead the team as seniors. They’ll have an alumni game at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday to help build community support for the program, before introducing this year’s team after in a Blue and White game.
The Royals have their sights set on the 38th District title, after failing to advance in the postseason last year. Pendleton County has won the district the last three years.
Before then, or any other games, they’ll face off with another team in the district – Maysville rival St. Patrick. The two tied both meetings last year, 3-3.
“There’s always that hometown rivalry we have with St. Pat. That’s something we need to prove to ourselves and this city this year. They’re a great group of guys. I got to work with and talk with them this offseason. They’re tough on the field. They’re out first regular season game of the season,” said Forsythe. “Pendleton’s a tough team, but I’m honest when I say I feel we’ll have a chance in the district this year. The boys feel that too.”
The Saints enter the 2018 season with many questions marks, after going 6-6-6 last year.
One of those questions, about who will be the next coach after Father Michael Black resigned to return to school, was answered last week.
Michael Parsons has taken over as the Saints’ head coach, and has been working on getting the team together for practices before the regular season begins.
“It’s challenging, but it’s been, so far, pretty good. We’ve had some pretty unfriendly weather conditions, so we’ve had to move most of our practices to an indoor facility. That part is kind of challenging – sharing space with the girls’ soccer team,” said Parsons. “It’s, so far, been pretty good. I can’t complain.”
Other questions surrounding the team involve the roster size.
Last year, the Saints had five girls listed on the boys’ roster. The plan this season is to have separate girls’ and boys’ teams.
St. Patrick has struggled with numbers on the boys’ side early on this season, getting about eight out to preseason practices, according to Parsons.
“We have a couple kids that are still on vacation and a couple more still out for various reasons,” said Parsons. “We’re trying to get in communication with a few of the basketball players that have shown interest and wanted to play.”
Though they lost some boys from last year to graduation, including leading scorer Baylen Bauer, Jacob Blust, Eddie Cardenas and Owen Williams, St. Patrick will return plenty of talent, including some that will have at least another season after this one.
Included on the 2018 roster for seniors are Pedro Briseno, Paco Franco and Eli Frye. Franco scored five times and assisted three goals, while Briseno scored four times and had two assists while mainly providing support to the Saints’ back line. Frye has served as a tough defender in recent seasons.
Willie Franco provided a boost in the midfield for St. Patrick as a sophomore last year, posting three goals and two assists, while a duo of newcomers in Cesar Briseno and Marvin Koch provided an offensive spark. Briseno, a freshman last year, and Koch, a sophomore transfer last year, combined to score 26 goals and record 24 assists.
“They’ve gotten a season under their belts and are playing with the same kids. They’re getting to know how each other plays a little bit and a little more understanding of the game,” said Parsons. “They’re just continually growing to become as good as they possibly can be.”
St. Patrick is also still in the search for their next goalkeeper. Jake Swolsky took over for Nic Cress last season, but transferred to Mason County over the summer.
The cross-town rivals will open the season against one another on Aug. 14 at 5:15 p.m. It’s a rivalry Parsons knows a little something about. He attended St. Patrick until fifth grade and graduated from Mason County.
“I know just from the last couple of years that since most of these kids are close and grew up together and played at the Boys’ Club, it’s grown to be quite a good little rivalry,” said Parsons. “I’m always excited to see how that will turn out.”
St. Patrick has their eyes set on their first district title since 2009, when they knocked off Grant County, 1-0, to claim the 23rd District title. Their last regional tournament appearance was in 2011 as members of the 12th Region.
“This team could be, in the next year or two, pretty competitive. I just want to have a good, competitive team. I want to the kids to just be able to enjoy playing soccer and have fun with it, not beat themselves up too bad about if they lose a game or tie a game and just to have a pretty good time,” said Parsons. “I told them it’s good varsity experience for me and them.”
The Panthers will return the bulk of their roster from a young team that went 4-14-1 last season, and they’ll be looking for big things out of those players this year.
Three of Fleming County’s 28 goals came from John Adams, the lone senior on the team last year. While they’ll look to fill in the leadership he provided, they’ll have plenty of talent back.
Elian Gonzales is back on the roster this fall, after leading the Panthers with eight goals and seven assists as a freshman. They’ll also bring back Lucas Pinkley, who finished the 2017 season with seven goals and six assists, for his junior season. Jordan Dials, another rising junior this year, was third on the team with six goals.
Also back are Christian Fronk, Ethan Purvis and Hunter Hicks, who all scored at least a goal last year.
Michael Allex returns for his senior year in goal, after posting three shutouts as a junior.
The Panthers will aim for their first district tournament win since 2013, when they knocked off Bath County in overtime of the 61st District semifinals, 2-1. They fell to Rowan County in the final that year, 4-3.
Fleming County coach Danny Stunson could not be reached for comment.
Fleming County is scheduled to open the season at West Carter on Aug. 14. The game is scheduled to begin at 6 p.m.