Belleville Henderson is looking for leadership from (from left) goalkeeper Jeremy McGrath, forward/midfielder Brayden Richmond, defender Sheldon Spencer and forward/midfielder Kyle Moyer. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

BELLEVILLE — On a crisp and cool Friday morning, Belleville Henderson’s boys soccer team gathered for practice.

With the weather providing a break from the usual hot-and-humid late summer conditions, a sense of normalcy has returned to the team as a new season beckons.

After all, the Panthers, who have made strides as a program in recent years, were denied a fall season last year, along with other teams across the state, because of the pandemic.

“It was terrible, I was really looking forward to having a good season,” Belleville Henderson senior goalkeeper Jeremy McGrath said. “I’m sorry for our seniors that graduated, that they didn’t have a chance for a full season.”

Belleville Henderson was one of several teams across Jefferson County that experienced an abbreviated season in the spring.

Now this group is looking to return to the pitch in earnest as Frontier League play begins this week.

“I just can’t wait to be back on the field, it’s been a while, so it’s going to be fun,” McGrath said.

“It’s very nice coming back now, because it’s just been too long since it’s been normal,” Panthers’ junior Brayden Richmond said. “Now we’re finally being able to get out here and practice every day like we used to.”

Belleville Henderson’s program has enjoyed a resurgence as it has claimed two consecutive “D” Division titles.

“I think we’re going to be pretty good,” Richmond said. “We lost a lot of players, but we still have a pretty decent lineup. So we should go pretty far this year, I think.”

The Panthers return a host of players from last season’s team, 12 in all, which won six of seven games in the spring in the Fall Season II.

“We have a really good chemistry, it really started last year when we lost a bunch of guys from the year before,” said Panthers’ senior Kyle Moyer. “It was kind of on us to keep that going with what the guys were before.”

In the spring, Belleville Henderson’s only loss came to General Brown, a “B” Division team that went undefeated in the league in 2019.

“Short and sweet, but we did have a good season,” Belleville Henderson coach Shawn Maloney said of the spring. “Our small-town chemistry works very well and it’s continuing. We’re blessed to have that in a small-town community being a “D” Division school.”

The team possesses leadership throughout the field, McGrath at goalie, to defender Sheldon Spencer, all the way up to Moyer and Richmond, who play forward and at times in the midfield.

“We have pretty good chemistry because we’re all hanging out all the time, we’re like family,” Spencer said.

Moyer scored five goals and assisted on two others in the spring season, while Richmond also tallied five goals, along with an assist.

“Kyle Moyer is one of my fastest and steady strikers that’s also blossomed,” Maloney said. “And I think it is because of Brayden, because they’re good friends and they’re almost competing against each other and working in the same position. So they push each other to the limit.”

Richmond will take on even more responsibility in the middle as he’ll aim to lead the team from the vital role as a central-midfielder.

“Brayden I could put almost anywhere,” Maloney said. “He’s the best coachable kid you can ask for. He soaks it in, he’s like a sponge. No matter where he’s at, he’ll play to the best of his ability. And if he doesn’t know, he’ll learn. That’s one aspect that you can’t teach.”

Richmond welcomes these additional responsibilities in the midfield.

“From that perspective, you can kind of just I think almost control the field, because you just stay right in the middle, you can see just about everything,” Richmond said. “You can kind of tell players where they need to be, you can know where the ball needs to go and kind of watch everything.”

Spencer has plenty of experience defensively and figures to lead the team in this area.

“Sheldon is a senior also and he’s been playing center-back for three years now and he’s also teaching the young defenders on positioning and how to do what,” Maloney said. “And he also is fast, so we’ve got good wheels.”

Maloney has great faith in McGrath as a goalkeeper, who has started since eighth grade and was part of the team’s unbeaten 17-0-1 run in 2019.

“Our keeper, he wasn’t here in the spring to play, but he’s back,” Maloney said. “He’s a senior and I will put him up against any keeper in the Frontier League, he is outstanding. He’s going to be a big asset to our games.”

Belleville Henderson and Lyme shared the “D” Division regular-season title in 2018 and the Panthers won the regular-season title in 2019 with a 14-0 record.

“We really started, like three or four years ago, that intensity started building up, we started getting players that really liked the game and were really serious about it,” Moyer said. “And from then, we really strived to have that mentality.”

With the growth of the program, the Panthers again have lofty goals this season, such as advancing further in the postseason this year.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been at that level of where we can compete for sectionals and be like that,” McGrath said. “But we build every year, up and up and up, and I’m glad to see it kind of paying off in a way.”

Here’s a look at the Frontier League this season:

“A” Division

Outlook: Watertown fared 14-2-1 in the 2019 season, including going 9-1 in league play with its only loss to unbeaten General Brown. The Cyclones were also strong in the Fall II season by recording a perfect 7-0 record in the spring, including defeating General Brown, 4-0, on April 13. Watertown lost a host of seniors to graduation in June. The Cyclones hope for leadership in the midfield from seniors Matt Cole and Seth Johnson, as well as from senior defender Kody Daly and junior forward Harmon Braddock. “We hope to be competitive after graduating 15 seniors and returning only three starters,” said Watertown coach Todd Heckman, who is in his 15th season coaching the varsity team. ... Indian River is in its 15th season with Fred LaVancha as varsity coach. The Warriors are looking to rebound following a 2019 season in which they won only four games, including one in the Frontier League. Indian River went on to win two out of eight games last spring. The Warriors have some talented young players including sophomore striker Jalen Robertson and goalkeeper Joey Rapp, also a sophomore, while junior Caleb Adams looks to lead from the midfield. “We will be looking to blend a mix of talented returning players with some youngsters,” LaVancha said. ... Carthage went 7-9-1 in 2019, including winning three games in the league. The Comets won one of seven games in the spring season but is off to a strong start this season.

Carthage Comets

Coach: Joe Mono (6th year)

2021 spring record: 1-6.

Players to watch: N/A.

Indian River Warriors

Coach: Fred LaVancha (15th year)

2021 spring record: 2-6.

Players to watch: Caleb Adams (Jr., M), Joey Raap (So, G), Jalen Robertson (So., F).

Watertown Cyclones

Coach: Todd Heckman (15th year)

2021 spring record: (7-0).

Players to watch: Harmon Braddock (Jr., F), Matt Cole (Sr., M), Kody Daly (Sr., D), Seth Johnson (Sr., M).

“B” DIVISION

Outlook: General Brown won five of its six games in the Fall II season in the spring after a memorable 2019 campaign in which it went unbeaten at 12-0, winning the league’s division. The Lions have a new coach in José Bernier after Phil Jenner coached the team for 16 seasons. The team lost a host of seniors to graduation and will look for leadership from seniors Lucas Hernandez-Murillo and Eric Randall. “This year will be a rebuilding one,” Bernier said. “We lost quite a number of quality players, who graduated last year.” ... Lowville had a successful 2019 season by competing with the other Lewis County schools, finishing undefeated at 4-0. The Red Raiders return seven seniors from that team, including Jeremie Lehmann, who is entering his fourth varsity season. “We are hoping that (Lehmann’s) leadership will anchor our midfield,” said Nick Matuszczak, who is entering his 10th season as Lowville’s coach. ... Trevor Perry returns for his fourth season as head coach at South Jefferson. The Spartans fared 5-1 in Fall II season in the spring after generating a 7-3-1 record in the league’s “B” Division in 2019. Sporting a young team entering this season, South Jefferson is hoping for leadership from talented junior goalie Evan Widrick. “Looking forward to a full season and the challenging schedule we have in place,” Perry said.

General Brown Lions

Coach: José Bernier (1st year)

2021 spring record: 5-1.

Players to watch: Lucas Hernandez-Murillo (Sr.), Eric Randall (Sr.), Lucas Lavarnway (Jr.), Cameron Matukas (Jr.), Tucker Rosbrook (Jr., G), Luke Rutledge (Jr.)

Lowville Red Raiders

Coach: Nick Matuszczak (10th year)

2020 fall record: 4-0.

Players to watch: Brody Brown (Jr.), Christian Dunckel (Sr.), Jeremie Lehmann (Sr.)

Jeremie Lehmann, Christian Dunckel,

South Jefferson Spartans

Coach: Trevor Perry (4th year)

2021 spring record: 4-2.

Players to watch: Evan Widrick (Jr., G).

“C” DIVISION

Outlook: South Lewis has won the past two “C” Division titles, including forging a 13-2 record in the Frontier League. The Falcons went on to play four games against Lewis County opponents last fall, finishing 1-2-1 after county schools opted to halt play over concerns over the pandemic. South Lewis returns 10 players from last season, including five seniors — center-forward Jacob Worden, forward/defenders Hewson Burd and Cameron Evans, defender Nolan Kraeger and defender Brecken Yager. ... Beaver River, which finished third in the division in 2019 and fared 0-3-1 last fall in an abbreviated season against Lewis County schools, has a new head coach in Melissa Hirschey, who previously coached the program’s boys modified team. The Beavers sport only two upperclassmen in seniors Jadien Kline, a midfielder, and David Duell II, a midfielder-defender, as well as six juniors. ... Thousand Islands’ roster was bolstered after it combined with LaFargeville after the Red Knights weren’t able to field a team because of low numbers. The Vikings now sport 23 players heading into the season, including returners Jack Bashaw, who played for TI last season, and Mitchell Timmerman, who played for LaFargeville in the spring. Thousand Islands finished in second place in the “C” Division in 2019 with a 9-6 record in the circuit and went on to record a 2-2 record in the Fall Season II in the spring. “We are glad to have the opportunity to get out in play soccer during these tough times,” Thousand Islands coach Jacob LaClair said. “We are excited for the season and the chance to play some strong competition.”

Beaver River Beavers

Coach: Melissa Hirschey (1st year)

2020 fall record: 0-3-1.

Players to watch: David Duell II (Sr.), Montana Grunert (Jr.), Gabe Gallo (Jr.), Ayden Moser (Jr.)

Sandy Creek/Pulaski

Coach: Steve Olson (9th year)

2020 record: Did not play.

Players to watch: N/A.

South Lewis Falcons

Coach: Jeremy Youngs (2nd year)

2020 fall record: 1-2-1.

Players to watch: N/A.

Thousand Islands Vikings

Coach: Jacob LaClair (2nd year)

2021 spring record: 2-2.

Players to watch: Jack Bashaw, Mitchell Timmerman, Nathan Wyatt.

“D” DIVISION

Outlook: Lyme was one of the schools who chose not to compete in the Fall II season in soccer. “It was pretty disappointing,” Lyme coach Rob Goutremout said. “Last year we had the ultimate team that never got to prove it.” The Indians, though, sport a strong nucleus of players, including senior forward Derrike Goutremout, senior defender Matt Kimball, who are both returners, and junior central-midfielder Aiden Linkroum. Other players to keep an eye on include central-midfielder Jon LaFontaine and striker Derek Radley, who are both freshmen. ... Copenhagen was the only Frontier League team that competed both last fall and also in an abbreviated spring season. The Golden Knights fared 2-2 against Lewis County opponents in October and returned to play in the Fall II season, winning two of three games. Copenhagen sports only four seniors on this year’s team. Players to keep an eye on this season include junior defender Dylan Petrie, sophomore midfielder/forwards Caden Miller and Chase Nevills and sophomore midfielder Landon Sullivan. “This year’s team is filled with plenty of underclassmen who are athletic and hardworking,” Copenhagen coach Logan Spaulding said ... Sackets Harbor will look to rebound after winning only one game in 2019 and faring 1-4 in the spring season. ... Alexandria, which won only two games in 2019, chose not to compete in soccer in the Fall II season and has a new head coach in Mark Kaleel.

Alexandria Purple Ghosts

Coach: Matt Kaleel (1st year)

2020 record: Did not play.

Players to watch: N/A.

Belleville Henderson Panthers

Coach: Shawn Maloney (6th year)

2021 spring record: 6-1.

Players to watch: Jeremy McGrath (Sr., G), Kyle Moyer (Sr., F), Brayden Richmond (Jr., M/F), Sheldon Spencer (Sr., D).

Copenhagen Golden Knights

Coach: Logan Spaulding (2nd year)

2020 fall record: 2-2.

2021 spring record: 2-1.

Players to watch: Caden Miller (So., M/F), Chase Nevills (So., M/F), Dylan Petrie (Jr., D), Landon Sullivan (So., M).

Lyme Indians

Coach: Rob Goutremont (4th year)

2020 record: Did not play.

Players to watch: Derrike Goutremout (Sr., F), Matt Kimball (Sr., D), Jon LaFontaine (Fr., M), Aiden Linkroum (Jr., M), Derek Radley (Fr., F).

Sackets Harbor Patriots

Coach: Dan Truax (5th year)

2021 spring record: 1-4.

Players to watch: N/A.

INDEPENDENT

Immaculate Heart Cavaliers

Coach: Craig Wilkinson (1st year)

2019 record: Did not play.

Players to watch: N/A.

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.