Direct Rays

Lots to Look Forward to as 2022 Fall Prep Seasons Approach

Opinion Advocates for ideas and draws conclusions based on the author/producer’s interpretation of facts and data.

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By Ray Gallagher, Examiner Sports Editor @Directrays

There are just so many things to look forward to as the 2022 fall high school preps begin their ascension from pre-season to league, sectional and state titles. Let’s bounce around a bit and drop some names, shall we?

A whole new era of Somers soccer is set to take the stage in the fall of 2022.

I can’t imagine the level of hype at SOMERS High where Coach Brian Lanzetta’s reining NYS CLASS A champion Tuskers are poised to take the pitch and repeat as boys’ sectional soccer champs while Coach Anthony DeMatteo’s NYS Class A runner-up football team – led by All-NYS OL/DL Jake Polito – takes aim at what would be the Tuskers’ fifth sectional title since 2012.

Tusker Nation was treated to something similar – only better – in 2016 when Somers was crowned state champs in both soccer and football. The many treks I made that season in pursuit of catching Tusker greatness made me wonder why I ever leased a car with mileage limits, but I did get some bang for my buck last year when chasing Somers, NYS Class AA champ CARMEL and NYS Class B runner-up Pleasantville to Syracuse in the state gridiron tourney.

Pleasantville junior RB Daniel Picart is among the finest players in the state and will carve an epic legacy the next two seasons.

I’ve got a strong inclination suggesting PLEASANTVILLE is set to load the buses for the Carrier Dome in Syracuse, yet again, on Thanksgiving weekend, and wouldn’t be surprised if Somers does likewise. The versatile junior Picart boys – RB Daniel (22 total TD’s last year) and QB Aidan (who will assume a massive role in 2022) – have strong ties to the Pleasantville community, as both mom and dad hail from there. Chances are they rally the township together again with Coach Tony Becerra for yet another magical run for what might be the Panthers’ second state crown since 2017 and its third state title appearance, while also honing in on what could be the Panthers’ fifth sectional crown since 2013 and 11th since 1973.

But crazy as this may sound, stoutly-built HENDRICK HUDSON could be standing between the Panthers and a sectional title, as the Sailors return a massive offensive line and witness the return of 6-foot-2, 280-pound Stepinac transfer Dougie Travis as they go in search of Hen Hud’s first sectional title.

Oddly enough, the massive Travis, a senior and two-year starter at Stepinac, won’t be the biggest dude in the Sailor trenches, so you can bet your bottom dollar that Coach John “Big Cat” Catano’s Sailors will have P’ville on their radar, provided their skill players have what it takes behind this O-line.

And before we get off Hen Hud it’s important to note they will be seeking their 17th Section 1 volleyball title since 2000 under Westchester County Hall of Fame Coach Diane Swertfager, the best in the biz. 

Praying for more memorable moments like this one at Yorktown in 2022.

I’m itching to see if 13-time NYS field hockey champion LAKELAND Coach Sharon Sarsen (also the best in the biz) can keep this ridiculous streak of 13-straight Section 1 Class B titles going. Led by All-Section senior G Celeste Pagliaroli, the Hornets will continue to be up against enormous pressure to win a 14th straight title despite a full-fledged youth movement led by sophomore M Gabriella Santini. The bullseye is squarely on Lakeland’s back, but it’s nothing the Hornets haven’t handled before.

And one field hockey player that excites me is CARMEL’s All-NYS senior M Laila Rosenquest, who led the Rams to one of their finest seasons in 2021, much like their football team did under Coach Todd Cayea, who guided the undefeated Class AA Rams to a dominant state-title performance. One can expect a heavy dose of senior RB’s Thomas Keating, Matt Risley and workhorse Nick Rosaforte, who is also one of the best defensive players in the state, running behind senior OL/DL Owen Boland, an absolute beast at 6-foot-5, 250.

Circling back to field hockey, this sensational FOX LANE sophomore F Samantha Reder comes off an All-Section campaign after a fabulous rookie season, as does WHITE PLAINS All-Section senior Sophia Emmert. Keep eyes on these field hockey players for sure, and while you’re spotting Tigers, keep an eye on White Plains’ soccer G Kevin Espinosa Duque, an All-Section returnee.

Over at WALTER PANAS, I’m sure as heck curious to see how third-year Coach Bill Castro is going to utilize speedy junior Travis Carlucci, who can do a little bit of everything, including electrifying kick returns to the house. Castro has preached special teams’ importance to his players since arriving at Panas in 2020 and he has a game-breaker in Carlucci. But all eyes will be on the Panther volleyball team, which went deep into states last year and has one sectional title goal in mind despite losing a ton of talent. Like Class B Hen Hud volley, Class A Panas just reloads year after year.

Byram Hills will turn to Aiden Heffner and Christian Bellantoni to continue the strong Bobcat tradition in Class B this fall.

When you think of fall sports at BYRAM HILLS, the first thing to come to mind is boys’ soccer Coach Matt Allen’s Bobcats and whether or not they can challenge Somers, upstart Lakeland and Coach Zoran Milojevic’s summer league champion YORKTOWN for Class A supremacy. But that won’t be the case this season with Byram Hills dropping down to Class B.

This is a hotbed we can’t wait to cover this fall – good teams, great coaches, fun for all. In fact, LAKELAND looks stacked with returnees like Bryan Jaramillo, Connor Daly and All-Section senior F Michael Rodriguez, but we could be staring straight down the barrel of yet another epic Yorktown-Somers finale. If attitude is everything, Somers repeats as champs with the likes of Brady “Baby” Leitner and Liam Healy, but the Tuskers lost a ton of senior leadership and skill and will replenish its forces with a slew of talented sophomores.

Yorktown, the early favorites, is mighty big, gifted and very athletic, led by Ryan Tomeny and Chris Coppola. And don’t dismiss HORACE GREELEY. The Quakers are on a tier just below the aforementioned bigwigs, but soccer is life at Greeley and field hockey is right up there, too, with Greeley sophomore Nina Byrne ready to take the scene by storm.

While we’re kicking the ball around the pitch this fall, be sure to keep an eye on whether or not Class B BRIARCLIFF, BYRAM HILLS, WESTLAKE and VALHALLA can run with Bronxville, the clear favorites. Briarcliff can move the ball creatively and boasts some legit talent in junior Miles Prosperino, rising senior Ethan Klar and Sam Fash, who will lead the Bears’ back line. Byram is a tough defensive club led by CM Aiden Heffner that has played Class A competition for years now, and Valhalla is sneaky good with senior D Oliver Tecuapetla, Vincent Reyes and Owen Rubio Heeney returning.

Westlake lost a ton from what was one of its finest teams last year, including three All-Section talents (Martin Sunjic, Gianluca Ruggiero, Thomas Casale), but the Wildcats had a taste of what it takes last year while reaching the state semis, though they are really up against it this year with a ton of departures, a new head coach, a new assistant coach and really just Thomas Lyden as the top returning player.

And Class C boys’ soccer features a bold HALDANE club that Coach Ahmed Dwidar – my main man – truly believes in, including League III-D Player of the Year William Sniffen, an All-Section senior, and G Ronan Kiter.

And while we’re on the subject of great goalies, BRIARCLIFF senior Dylan Zednik led the Lady Bears all the way to the sectional finals last year while posting shutouts in 16 of her 18 junior-season games. Can’t wait to see her repeat that feat or something close to it.

Here’s what we know about MAHOPAC: The Indians had a very competitive fall season in 2021, but they lost one of their finest senior classes in the last decade, so we’ll see if they can challenge – almost across the board in field hockey, girls’ soccer, volleyball and football – as they did last year.

We’re just scratching the surface in this week’s bounce around the circuit, but we’ll be taking deeper dives in the days ahead.

Coaches and ADs, please do us a favor and respond to the forthcoming e-mails regarding our fall previews. When in doubt hit up, so we can publicize the exploits of our driven student athletes in the Examiner-area sports programs.

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