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Men’s Soccer Season Preview

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Senior captains Antonio Demonte (23), Kyle Wolf (22), Nick Felician (21) and Nick Demonte (20) lead the Blue Devil Soccer team into a new era in 2017.

Jon Huff ‘03

Coming off one of the best seasons in program history, the Blue Devils Men’s Soccer Team is back at it again. Returning team members are prepping for a new year while still taking pride in what was accomplished in 2016.

That glow cannot last long though. With nine seniors finishing their Brunswick careers last season, there are holes to fill and work to do. Youth will be on full display all around the pitch.

As much as things change, some remain the same; for one, the expectations from the coaching staff and players alike. Youth is no excuse for taking a step backward.

“We have a code that we go by here at Brunswick High School where we try to leave things better than we found it,” Brunswick fifth-year head coach Ben Dotson said. “The seniors last year set a pretty high bar for the expectations of the team. It is just trying to reach those goals continuously every year. These kids want to leave it better for the class after them and that is where we are at every single year, leave it better than we found it.”

Another carry over is in goal. Not the player, but the name as Gavin Ernst steps in for former All-Region honoree Gavin Leindecker. The new Gavin appreciates the scale of the situation, but has no plans of letting it get to him.

“It’s nerve-wracking playing with the older kids,” Ernst said. “They were such a great team last year. They had the other Gavin for four years. Filling those shoes for him, it’s a big deal. [The pressure] is more from myself, trying to stay confident in the back.”

“I think Gavin has looked fantastic so far,” Dotson said. “It took him a couple days to get acclimated. You’re filling the shoes of the best goalkeeper in school history and you have the same name. He was a little bit of a deer in headlights at first but the boys rallied around him. He’s proved to be quite a good goalkeeper and I think he’s going to have a very good season.”

The foursome in front of Ernst will serve as the foundation for Brunswick. Kyle Wolf returns, making a move to the center of the back line where he played as a sophomore. Wolf is set to earn his third varsity letter and was part of a staunch Blue Devils defense that allowed just 9 goals in 2016.

“We have one of the best back lines I’ve ever played with,” Wolf said. “It’s just phenomenal back there. We still have a little figuring out to do but just looking at all the individual guys and the way we communicate back there, it’s really strong.”

Also returning is second-year letterman Nate Bohrer, who earned an All-Gazette honorable mention last year. Aaron Ogorzaly and Sean Tarbuck are coming into starting roles and showing what they can add on both sides of the ball.

“You’ve got a tenacious kid in Aaron Ogorzaly who is really going to step into a center back role,” Dotson said. “He does a tremendous job organizing everything. The outside backs we have are are very quality.  Nate has worked his way back off a serious injury, but has picked up right where he left off last year.  Sean Tarbuck is a wide defender who reminds me of a Frankie Hejduk. The kid just never stops and he is going to put pressure on the opposing midfield by the way he gets forward. I think he is going to have an outstanding season as well.”

Junior Ryan McConnell adds depth to the back line as a solid defender who has the ability to play some fantastic balls across from a defending position.

The midfield will be a mix of experience and newcomers. Seniors Nick Demonte and Antonio Demonte and junior Garrett Shay are back to earn their third varsity letters. The three combined for 12 goals last season. Also bringing varsity experience will be senior Jake Hoffmaster and juniors Collin Parete and Ryan Utrup. All three earn their second letters.

Dotson has a number of line-up problems within his midfield that he sees as a good thing.  “We return five starters from a conference championship midfield.  Then we have less experienced players who want time for themselves.  They are really pushing each other.”

Utrup and Hoffmaster are players that are totally different that Dotson sees helping out the midfield in different ways.  Dotson said that “Utrup provides a simplicity on the ball as a connector to other players.  He’s very intelligent and works hard. Jake is a giant, a ball winner, and a composed body.  Both will provide us great things this year.”

“I’m looking forward to going out there and playing with these guys,” Nick Demonte said. “I like what we saw [in preseason]. They will lay it on the line for all of us. We lost a lot of key guys but [the younger players] are coming up and stepping to the plate and they are going to do real well.”

They are complemented by a couple of those younger players. Freshman Cole Parete and sophomore Justin Hagler look to be vital pieces in the midfield as well.

“Like I said, You bring back five starters to a midfield that won a conference championship and was ranked fourth in the state and you add more depth to it,” Dotson said. “You’ve got kids like Cole Parete and Justin Hagler coming in who are just going to add to our midfield depth and give us different options going forward. Justin had an outstanding off-season. He came in incredibly fit. He is fantastic on the ball and is very crafty with his body movement. I expect big things from him this year. He is great in possession and is able get forward into the attack. He’s chipped in some goals in preseason too.”

Like Ernst, Parete is still getting comfortable with his place in the squad, as well as finding his voice. All of that is made easier by the atmosphere around the team.

“The team is so tight, it’s easy to get into,” Parete said. “I didn’t really know what to expect that much. [After] a week or so it was really easy, I got used to it really quickly. [The freshmen have] got to get used to it and try to do as good as last year so there is a little pressure on us. But the captains are doing a good job fitting us in.”

Dotson just smiled when asked about Parete.  “Cole is one of the top players in the state, region and in my opinion, the country in his age group.  I cannot wait to see what he can do.”

The tip of the Blue Devil attack is returning All-GCC midfielder Nick Felician. The senior netted 11 goals and provided 14 assists in 2016. Felician ranks fifth all-time in Brunswick High School history in goals and points, as well as third in assists.

“I think we have a very strong midfield,” Felician said. “Our back line is doing well. We just need to score. That’s our biggest problem and that’s on me. We can’t finish right now. We were very successful last year. We lost a lot of good players. We just need to keep the mojo we had last year and hope for the best it comes back this year. We’re a new team. We’re learning.”

Set for their Blue Devil varsity debuts are seniors Joe Multunas and Noah Gottschling, two players Dotson credits as keys to the team’s chemistry.

More youth comes from the trio of Andrew Miranda, Tyler Hudy and Ryan Craska.

Dotson is excited about the crop of sophomores making varsity for the first time.  Tyler Brosky may get some minutes as well, as a junior and first year varsity player.

“Those four have shown a lot of promise in preseason,” Dotson said. “They have all the ability, but they need to show that ability consistently.”

Preseason became the mixing bowl for the team. A team camp at Ohio Northern helped start the process of synching. After camp came the Adidas National Showcase. The Blue Devils opened the tournament shaky with a 1-0 loss to Amherst. Two wins followed with a 5-0 drubbing of Kenton and a 2-1 win over Medina County neighbor Buckeye. Despite playing well versus Shaker Heights in the semifinal, the Blue Devils could not find the net and fell 1-0.

Once official pre-season started, the Blue Devils have had highs and lows.  On August 3rd, Brunswick beat former conference foe North Royalton 1-0 on a goal from Hudy.  Brunswick drew with Archbishop Hoban 3-3 over the weekend, with goals from Shay, Hagler and an own goal from the Knights defense.  This past Tuesday, the defeated Walsh 3-1 with goals from Felician (2) and Nick Demonte.

Overall, the preseason has Dotson optimistic. He sees the work that needs to be done but recognizes flashes of what could be.

“The play has been inconsistent,” Dotson said. “At times, it has been brilliant. Other times we have struggled. We are in that transition period where guys are getting used to playing together and that takes time. Once they figure out how to do that, I have the utmost faith in them having a fantastic season.”

The time is still there to tweak and get the kinks out in a few days before the season opener on August 22nd, versus Valley Forge.

After that the schedule gets crowded—and tough—quick.

“We’re not as close as we were last year, but that will take time,” Antonio Demonte said.

“Last year we had an instant chemistry because we’ve all been playing together for so long. This year they’re all young guys, everyone’s freshman, sophomore, then a couple juniors and a couple seniors, so we’ve got to bring the young ones in and show them the way. It has started. We’ve been doing a lot more team bonding and more guys have started opening up which is good.”

The usual suspects are there in Greater Cleveland Conference play. Brunswick travels to Shaker Heights on August 29th before hosting state semi-finalist Medina on September 5th.  On September 12th the Blue Devils travel to district finalist Strongsville.

The schedule also includes Wadsworth, regional finalist Jackson and a trip to Toledo to play state powerhouses Perrysburg and St. John’s Jesuit. All of that is set with high expectations in mind, making the program better than when they found it.

“I really want them to embrace the success they have but I also want them to make their own mark on the program,” Dotson said. “I feel like they have that opportunity.”

“Nobody is expecting much from us because we had a banner year and now they think that Brunswick is going to be down. They are taking it personally and they are thriving on the fact that people are counting them out. That is something they should not do to us.”

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    Great job by both @BrunswickXC teams today! Thanks for putting on a great event @scsmustangs #GoBigBlue #BrunswickPRIDE

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