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The Exeter High School boys’ soccer team is coming off a big year. In 2011, the Eagles won Division 1 of the Berks League with a 10-1 record, then made it to the league semifinals where they lost in double overtime to Tulpehocken, 4-3.
Equally that mark will be a very difficult task for the 2012 team. They lost a lot of key players to graduation and there will be a lot of holes to fill.
The biggest will by that of All-State forward Michael Palacious who led the team in scoring last year with 23 goals and 13 assists. His closest teammate was Ricky Bruno with 11 goals and nine assists for 31 points. Bruno will also not return this year. Sam Hart, the team’s third highest scorer, also graduated last spring.
“This season is going to be very challenging,” said Head Coach Chris Farrell. “Not only will our division be more competitive with the addition of Daniel Boone and Muhlenberg, but we also have the youngest most inexperienced team since I’ve been the head coach.”
There are just four seniors on this year’s team and there will be a number of freshman who will see significant playing time at the varsity level. Although the word “rebuilding” is a dirty work in high school sports, that’s exactly what this season will be for the Eagles - a rebuilding season.
Of course that doesn’t necessarily mean it will be a bad season. A lot can happen in high school sports and if some of the younger players can develop quickly, then if a goal scorer or two can emerge from this young bunch, a division title is never out of reach for this program. But young or experienced, Coach Farrell always has the same goals for his team.
“Even though we are young, our goals remain the same, -win the division, win the county, challenge for district title and qualify for states.”
Among those that are coming back from last year’s team is Austin Hart, who was fourth on the team in scoring last year with five goals and three assists. He will be in charge of controlling the midfield.
Bryan Crim will be the Eagles’ main attacking threat and Alec Finney will anchor the defense.
Demetrius Pacheco is also a key returning player, but he’s working through a long term injury. Then in the first game of the season this year, Sam Feehrer dislocated his shoulder and will be out for three weeks.
The Eagles can’t afford anymore injuries if they want to win a division title. Even then, they are going to need some of the younger players to learn and develop quickly if they want to compete in what is now an even tougher division.
The league has gone from four to three divisions, with the top two teams in each division making the playoffs, then two more wild card teams qualify.
In Division 1 with Exeter are Reading, Daniel Boone, Governor Mifflin, Muhlenberg and Wilson. It will be a tough division for the Eagles this year, but a good one to play in if you have players who need to develop. Playing against good teams always makes you better.
The question is, will they be good enough this year to make the playoffs. Only time will answer that question.