The high school soccer season gets underway next week with all three local boys teams playing their openers on Tuesday.
Franklin County made it to the 11th Region Tournament last year as the 41st District Tournament runner-up to Woodford County and finished with a 13-8-1 record.
The biggest change this year is Woodford County has moved to the Eighth Region, and Great Crossing, a Georgetown school that will be opening this fall, will compete in the 41st District.
Western Hills (7-8-1) and Frankfort (5-11-1) look to improve upon last year’s records.
The Flyers graduated four seniors off last year’s team, but they have plenty of players returning.
“We have some key pieces back,” FCHS coach Louis Tandy said. “Our whole back line is back, and our goalkeeper. Owen Powell, Owen Clements and our goalkeeper Cade Terry have all been starters since their freshman year, and they’re all juniors this year.
“(Senior) Alexander Bentley is back on our back line, and he’s been starting since he was a sophomore. Drew Harrod and Justin Castillo are back on offense. Drew led us in goals and assists last year, and Juan was next in both categories.”
Harrod finished last season with 16 goals and 10 assists, and Castillo had 13 goals and six assists.
There are others who return with playing experience.
“Sophomores Adam Gritton, Grant Kiser and Tyron Reynolds played some last year,” Tandy said. “Phillip Peiffer played a lot last year and brings a lot of different things to the game.
“Henry Nsiah has had a big preseason with a lot of energy, and that’s good to see.”
The Flyers have gone 2-1 so far in the preseason, playing in the Bluegrass State Games and Frankfort High’s first Soccerama last week.
FCHS wraps up the preseason against Woodford County Saturday in Frankfort’s second Soccerama.
The Flyers’ regular season starts Tuesday at Lexington Catholic.
“Things are going well right now,” Tandy said. “It’s a good core group.”
The Panthers have 40 players out this season, with 15 returning from last year.
Among those are the team’s four seniors — Delano Craig, Reed Miklavcic, Chase Austin and George Perry.
This will be Miklavcic’s fourth year as a starter and Craig’s third year. Both were starters on Frankfort’s 2017 team that went 20-2 and reached the regional semifinals.
“We’re deeper than we have been in years past,” FHS coach Brad Kennedy said. “Our freshman and sophomore classes are especially deep. We have more than 10 in each grade.”
The Panthers’ back line will feature a senior and three juniors, and there will be two seniors and a junior on the attack.
“We’re a little young in the midfield,” Kennedy said, “but they’re very talented and hungry.”
Junior Sam Yocum is back after starting at goalkeeper for FHS last year.
“Our returning goalkeeper, Sam Yocum, really grew as a keeper the last several weeks in the season, especially against Franklin County in the district tournament,” Kennedy said.
“He was a big reason we went to overtime and why the shootout went as long as it did.”
Frankfort lost to FCHS 1-0 in a shootout in the first round of the district tournament.
FHS opens its season Tuesday at Waggener in Louisville.
“They’ll look at our record from last season, and there are teams that will overlook us,” Kennedy said, “but we’ll be prepared, we’ll be disciplined, we’ll create chances to score, and we know in the back that we’re strong defensively.”
The Wolverines graduated 11 seniors off last year’s squad, but that hasn’t been a cause for concern with this year’s team.
“It would be easy for any coach to look at that and see a rebuilding year,” WHHS coach Chad Mangum said, “but if you spend 10 minutes with these guys you realize they don’t see it as a rebuilding year.
“We only have three seniors, but all the underclassmen are hungry and ready to show what they can do.”
This year’s seniors are Ethan Dunigan, Garrett Clark and Dhruv Kothari.
WHHS has 37 players out this year, three more than it had on last year’s team.
“I’m pleased with the numbers,” Mangum said. “We had some guys that came out for the team that surprised us. There were a couple we hadn’t seen before, but we’re always happy to have guys coming out for the program.”
Western Hills opens its varsity season Tuesday against Rowan County at Sower Soccer Complex. The Wolverines’ junior varsity team plays Frankfort Monday at Sower.
“There’s a special bond with everyone,” Mangum said of his team. “I enjoy being around them, and they enjoy being around each other. They can be goofy, but it’s fun. You can have fun and learn at the same time. Win or lose, they enjoy playing the game.”