“We have some superstars,” Jandreau said. “I have some depth on the bench and I never have that. I’ve had solid teams, but the bench was always hurting. Finally, I have some depth.”
Jandreau has speed in the person of Kevin Ransom, who scored five goals and four assists last year. He has a powerhouse in Jack Gaynor, who popped the net six times with two helpers. The potential of an offensive upsurge builds with the addition of former Oakwood protégé Tyler Stowik.
“He’s the man. We have a great core,” Jandreau said. “The kids played with him a lot when they were younger and they’re excited.”
Stowik and Ransom will man central midfield slots. Gaynor, a solidly built 5-foot-11 junior whose play reminds Jandreau of his son Antonio (All-SCC in 2012 and 2013), has a strong leg and the ability to clear open space in the box.
“I’m expecting him to be our number one goal scorer,” the coach said.
Jameson O’Connell centers the defense.
“He’s come a long way,” Jandreau said. “I’m able to move Ransom out of the back because other kids are stepping up.”
Quinn Crowther, Sebastian Gonzalez and Justin Guidet are among those in the defensive mix. Newcomer Luca Sensini and Corey Flynn will be on the wings.
Jandreau said the goalkeeping picture looked ominous until he got word that 6-foot-7 junior Cam Regan entered the picture a week ago Wednesday.
The Knights have quality players for every facet of the game, but the pitch is always a little uphill when you’ve got five games with teams projected among the top 18 in the preseason Class L/LL coaches poll.
Coach Dave Yanosy will take it.
“We welcome being in a tough league,” he said. “You may not go 14-2, but when you’ve seen what we’ve seen, you feel really good about yourself come tournament time. There are no breaks in the schedule and it puts us in a sink-or-swim environment.”
They’ll do better than tread water. Yanosy has consummate leader and three-year starter Evan Daddona back in goal and Hayden Burbank roaming the central midfield. Burbank also has a big leg to power the set pieces. Both were All-CCC last year.
When building from the back, the Knights return the slick combo of Joe Colaccino (10 goals) and Alexis Frausto (10 assists).
“We have the firepower up front, but if we can play something longer to a runner, we’re going to do that,” Yanosy said.
The firepower includes fleet Dan Topper, Collin Burbank and Colin Burdette. Kieran Tindall, Eli Rodriguez (5 goals, 4 on corner kicks) and Cam Zegzdryn are all proven veterans on defense.
“We have to thank the guys who played here the last two years (Erik Schneider, Ryan Burrill, Mike DeFeo, Bryan Doyle),” Yanosy said. “They had a really good blueprint so this team has come up with some really good leadership.
Like Southington, Sheehan has the advantage of a seasoned leader in goal with Nik Trivino set for his third year as starter.
He shares the captain’s table with top returning scoring Jason Umbehr and defensive lynchpin Camdyn Pegg.
“I believe we have the personnel to put a competitive team together,” said coach Lou Rodriguez, who graduated top scorer Andrew Caplan and defensive leaders Richie Dominguez and Ahmed Said.
“Nik is a tough kid with excellent visions who’s physically strong and will lead our team. Umbehr was our second leading scorer (6 goals, 4 assists) although he missed a couple of games due to injury. His leadership and soccer IQ will help us do well.”
Andrew Saball, Camden Wallace, Julio Serna and Tyler Jasinski, all starters in the Class M quarterfinal loss at Granby, are also returning.
“We lost seven boys, but we lost the same amount going into last year and we made the quarterfinals,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’re in good shape.”
The coaches who voted in the preseason poll tend to agree. Sheehan is tied with Granby for sixth in Class M/S.
Many coaches who lost what Artur Branco lost to graduation would be throwing the term “rebuilding” around, but tradition and commitment set Cheshire apart.
Talents like Mitch Manware, Andre Pereira and Sean Black have graduated, but the Rams have a huge influx of quality underclassmen just aching to replace them.
“It’s like I tell the kids, we are a part of Cheshire High sports with a huge tradition, so we have to enter every competition with the intent to win,” Branco said. “Regardless of whether it looks good or bad, we’re looking to win in the league and move forward.”
The junior class is stacked. Matt Mayano, Quinn Donahue and Toby Goldstein are among the lads expected to pick up the scoring slack. Jack Loura earned considerable playing time as a freshman last year.
“The kids have developed; they’re more physical. I would consider them above-average high school players if they can stay healthy,” Branco said.
Mayano and Loura were dealing with some preseason injuries, but the Rams have a late start (Tuesday) due a scheduled match with Xavier being pushed to midseason.
The difference between making the tournament and falling short as coach Dave Parness sees it is finishing at the goal.
The Spartans proved their tenacity last season, but six one-goal losses relegated them to the Class L fringe.
“We have to find a way to capitalize when the opportunities come,” Parness said. “That was the difference between getting into the tournament or just sneaking in the way we did. We’re probably about a .500 team, but we need big-time senior leadership.”
The glue for the Spartans is All-CCC central defender Francisco Ortega.
“He’s our guy,” Parness said. “He’s our one constant. He’s a great player; he plays hurt. If we do well, he has the potential to be All-State.”
Leading scorer Benjamin Pierce (11 goals) returns up front, but a season-ending injury to midfielder Devin Welch and the departure of center mid Zacchariah Smith have eroded the team’s depth. Denis Blandon will play center mid.
Bryan Brazel will join Ortega in front of returning keeper Guadalupe Martinez, most of the time.
“Bryan will be in the back more than in the past,” Parness said. “He can change games from the back. He’ll play up top as well. His biggest asset is his speed but he’s pretty good at getting 50/50 balls.”
Adilson Cardosa-Coelho scored five goals last year.
With effective team leaders Adrian Janko and Jake Garlock having graduated in June, coach Tim Redican is searching for leadership and unity to fill in around his captains, forward Hubert Brzoza, midfielder Colby Rintharamy and junior keeper Cam Germe.
“Losing Garlock and Janko is tough. Not only were they the backbones as players, but also as captains, so we’re looking for guys to step up. [Rintharamy, Brzoza and Germe] can do it, but we’re going to need more.”
Redican said Christian Gomez looms as a leader from his slot as stopper. Two backs, veteran Luis Santibanez and young Alec Perry, have attracted the coach’s attention. Freshman Elian Nava has flashed enough potential to gain consideration for a key central midfield slot.
Redican said the CCC’s conference restructuring has placed the Panthers in a position to play more teams at their level. They now play in the CCC South Region’s Colonial Division with Maloney, Middletown and Berlin, whom they will face twice. They cross over to play the three schools in the CCC South Patriot Division — Bristol Central, Bristol Eastern and Plainville — once each.
The Indians have no shortage of offensive thrust, so preventing goals will be vital if they are to vie for the first-ever title in the Connecticut Tech School Conference.
“We must develop players on defense if we want to achieve our goal,” veteran coach Joe Testa said.
Kelvin Cortez had 16 goals and 12 assists last year. The Indians need a secondary threat to step up with the next two top scorers, Gerardo Moran and Junior Solis (17 combined goals), having graduated.
“Kelvin has natural ability as a scorer,” Testa said. “He also has very good ball-handling skills and vision. His outside shot is a threat against any opponent. He has very good speed and, combined with his ability to change directions quickly, he’s hard to beat.”
Chris Acevez (3 goals, 2 assists) possesses well and looms as No. 2 to Cortez. Testa sees Victor Ahuatsi (goal, 8 assists) complementing his high scorer, too.
“He’s the fastest on the team,” Testa said. “And he’s a teammate of Kelvin in the offseason, so they know each other well.”
Will Pawlik anchors the defense and will be given opportunities to score off set pieces.