Broadalbin-Perth had been steadily building toward a strong 2011 season, and Patriots came through, winning a state championship.
The encore to that run is one the major stories that will play out this fall.
The other big story is Jonathan Bain succeeding Mike Campisi at the helm at Shenendehowa, the top large-school program in Section II. Campisi stepped down after 32 years, his final team coming up two wins shy of a sixth state championship.
The Western Athletic Conference has gone to a three-division format, with Galway, Mayfield, Mekeel Christian Academy and Northville (a combined 44-14-6 last fall) in one division.
“We have eight returning starters who obviously have that experience that comes from winning a state championship,” said Broadalbin-Perth coach Brian Henry. “Some of the other kids are stepping up, and they want that same experience. We’ve got all the pieces. I really like the attitude of this team.”
Mark Sylvia and Tucker Wilcox were the only two underclassmen among last fall’s Foothills Council first-team all-stars.
Sylvia helped the Patriots post 13 shutouts and allow only 11 goals in a 19-0-3 season. Wilcox scored 12 goals and was credited with 19 assists as a junior.
“Tucker Wilcox is going to be outstanding. He’s a Division I kid,” said Henry.
A.J. Klemczak and Ben Bellandi are two other seniors looking to get back to the states.
“A.J. Klemczak is a blue-collar player in the middle of the field,” said Henry. “You need players like that.”
Bellandi Wilcox will be relied on to replace Dominic Kwiatkowski’s 36 goals.
“We’ve got crazy speed up top with Ben Bellandi,” said Henry, whose team was the only one in the state to finish unbeaten in 2011.
Scotia-Glenville and South Glens Falls figure to give the Patriots their toughest tests in the Foothills Council. The Patriots needed a late goal to get a 1-1 draw with the Bulldogs in their league opener.
“I think we’ll score goals, but we’re not deep off the bench,” said Scotia coach Chris Bailey. “If we’re in the top three in the league, I’d be pleased.”
Country Moran, Eric Denny and Dennis Turner return to give the Tartans offense, and freshman Owen Finger gets a bigger role.
Queensbury made it to the Class A title game last November, but veteran coach Pete Crotty lost three top-shelf players in Sam Keenan, Ben Garcia and Tom Benedetto.
“We lost 80 percent of our goal scoring. We need young guys to step up,” said Crotty, who has goalkeeper Pat O’Mara among his veterans.
Not only is Bain taking over for a coach with 23 league championships and 17 sectional titles (both second on the section’s all-time list), he inherited a young club, with 11 full- or part-time starters graduated.
“We’re inexperienced. We’re making mistakes because they haven’t played varsity before, or didn’t get a lot of playing time on varsity before,” said Bain, who had coached many of the players on his first varsity team when they were on JV. “They’re adjusting to the speed of play, especially the sophomores. They’re also adjusting to the physical style. That’s a big adjustment.”
Phil Barrett, Chris Schmid and Ricky Grable bring the most varsity experience. Of the 23 players on the varsity roster, there are as many sophomores (eight) as seniors.
“Phil has looked good, and Chris is going to score goals,” said Bain, whose team won their opener at Niskayuna. “The seniors, Adam Bindelglass and Ricky Grable, have been playing well. I think the younger kids will come on. They’re going to get better and better as the season goes on.”
While Bain knows the younger players will take a while to grasp the physical aspect of varsity play, he expects their skills to help.
“In terms of our style, and tactically, they all know their roles,” he said. ”We’ll make some mistakes early on, but I think by the end, we’ll compete and give teams a good run.”
Colonie reached the Class AA final last year, but also took a heavy graduation hit.
“We graduated a very strong class. But we return a number of well-experienced players who were part of our success from last season,” said Garnet Raiders coach Mike Trimarchi. “That group last year set a great example, and this group learned a lot from them.”
Sophomore Uyiosa Omorogbe and junior Paulino Curto earned league honors last year.
Trimarchi said his team will challenge again this season.
“I want us to stay in the top third of the league, but you have to stay healthy,” he said.
Mohonasen’s bid for a third Class A title in four years took a hit when Kyle Wright went down in preseason with a knee injury.
The Mighty Warriors still have some weapons in Attilo Tebano and Mike Korzun. Alec Volans returns in goal.
Guilderland coach Mike Kinnally has a young, but deep, team.
“We’re a little inexperienced, but I think we’ll be OK,” said Kinnally, whose 2011 team fell in the sectional semifinals. “We’re semi-deep, which helps. It’s still early, and we’re still trying to see where everyone fits.”
Vito Mesiti leads the Dutchmen veterans.
Burnt Hills-Ballston Lake scrambled to a .500 finish in the SC last year. Tim Hughes and goalkeeper Kurtis Souza are among the returning players.
Albany and Troy battled for the Big 10 title right to the end of the season, with the Falcons ending up on top, and going one game deeper into the postseason than the Flying Horses.
Tyler Stempsey was a league second-team pick for Albany, while Troy returns first-teamers Brandon Dory and Rafik Mekhaldi, as it drops to Class A for the postseason.
Schenectady finished third in the league a year ago, but has to fill several holes from graduation. Bebeto Roberts and Jhon Rojas are back.
Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons is not fielding a varsity team; its players are part of the CBA team this fall.
Albany Academy edged Schalmont for a Colonial Council divisional title last season. The Cadets have opened with three one-sided wins, with John Moutopolous, Jordan Newton and Dami Osofisan providing the offense. League first-team goalkeeper Hugh Fisher also returns.
Chris Bubb and Gino Rossi are among the veterans at Schalmont. Mechanicville brings back the large majority of an underclassmen-heavy 2011 team.
The new setup in the WAC groups together four of the top teams from last season.
Galway went 12-1-3 before being upset on penalty kicks in its Class C opener; Mayfield was 11-3-2 and a Class C quarterfinalist; Mekeel Christian Academy went 12-4-0 before being upset in its first postseason contest; and Northville went 9-6-1 and got to the Class D quarterfinals.
Galway’s Josh Bailey and Andew Izzo were WAC North first-teamers a season ago, while Mayfield brings back 27-goal scorer and North MVP Dylan Toscano.
Mekeel boasted three of the top individual players in the league in Tai Aderounmu, Kenny Aderounmu and T.K. Majekdounmi. Northville, three seasons removed from a state final showing, returns Matt Scunziano and Jimmy Gryga,
Fort Plain could step up, with an experienced group led by Chris Kilmartin, Marcus Failing and Jake Sardinia.