For the first time since he retook the reins of Homer Central boys’ varsity soccer in 1994, the Trojans will head into a season without Dave Shiffman as the head coach.
After 26 years total and 482 games, Shiffman stepped down at the end of the 2015 season with 246 wins and his volunteer assistant for a number of years is now in charge.
Dick O’Shea has a long history of involvement in Homer soccer, including many seasons with the Greater Homer Youth Soccer program and he’s excited about this opportunity. O’Shea is just the fourth boys’ varsity soccer coach in school history.
“It’s not a lot different,” O’Shea said of calling the shots from day one as when he was Shiffman’s assistant. “It’s still coming out and working with the kids. We’ve been trying to identify weaknesses and exploit our strengths.
“They guys are all working hard,” he added. “The guys are reasonably well conditioned. I think they will be ready to play.”
The Trojans open the season Friday at 5 p.m. against Oswego in the first round of the Oswego Tournament. The Trojans will play either East Syracuse-Minor or Central Square Saturday.
O’Shea does have the advantage of being around these current players, so it’s not a totally new experience.
“A lot of these guys have been playing together indoors as well,” O’Shea said. “There are a lot of dedicated parents who have helped with that. I have gotten to know a lot of these guys outside of the soccer field. I know what they’ve done in school and in the community. I do hear a lot about what they are involved in. It is a good bunch.”
HOMER HAS 25 PLAYERS on the roster with 13 returning players from a team that went 7-9-1 in 2015.
The most experienced player is senior midfielder Marton Tozser who begins his fourth season of varsity competition. Despite being hurt part of the season, Tozser still led the Trojans in scoring with 11 goals and six assists for 28 points. He earned first-team all-star status and was the team’s MVP in 2015.
Other guys back for their second season are senior midfielder-defender Joey Esposito, senior goalkeeper-midfielder Riley McEvoy, senior forward Scott Maus, senior defender Max Riley, senior defender Stone Tanner, senior midfielder Jake Riley, senior midfielder-forward Paddy Fox, senior defender Dylan Casterline, senior midfielder Danny Hale, senior defender Evan Perry and junior goalkeeper-midfielder Cody Wagner. Esposito was a second team all-star last year.
Moving up from the 2015 JV team that went 11-1-3 are sophomore midfielder Ben Herman, junior defender Ethan Whittington, junior defender Nate Potter, junior forward Julian Ponirakis, sophomore forward/midfielder Marcus Karam, junior defender Ethan Laundry, junior defender AlexCottrell, junior defender Isac Burroughs, junior midfielder-defender Jackson Brazo, junior midfielder Kyle Ryan and junior midfielder Zane Grihin.
Senior defender Andy McLaughlin and senior midfielder Sebashan Illanes, a foreign exchange student from Bolivia, are the new faces to the team.
Looking up top, Maus is the top returning scorer there with four goals and two assists as a striker.
“Scott is back and he was strong up top,” O’Shea said. “Depending on the formation, Marton could be there. Cody is back and healthy. Marcus is going to be a good addition. Paddy is back and he has good speed so he could be up top.”
Joey Esposito is an established starter, but he may be on defense,” O’Shea said. “Jake Riley should play in the middle. Julian is a good ball distributor so he could be in the middle or could move up top. Danny Hale could be a defensive middie for us.
ONE TROJAN WHO is tough to slot into a set position is Herman.
“Ben is a very talented player and he can play anywhere,” O’Shea said. “We lost a lot on defense and that’s where we really are still trying to figure things out.”
Replacing veteran defenders Nate Burroughs, Nick Sahm and Nick Yarnell who graduated is not an easy task along with expected senior goalkeeper Lucian St. John being out with a knee injury for the season, the defense will need to find the right pieces.
“Riley McEvoy is back and he is a very talented player.” O’Shea said. “We are thinking of using him in goal along with Cody. We really expected Lucian to be our starter for a second year, but he is hurt so we are wrestling with that spot right now. They both have some different skills in goal. Both are very good field players, but you need a good goalie too.
“Max Riley is definitely a guy who is back and can play defense,” he continued. “He was a good marking back last year and he will be a strength for us back there. Alex Cottrell was the sweeper on the JV team last year. Nate Potter did play up the field more, but he is a strong candidate for the defense right now. Ethan Laundry looks good and he played both defense and midfield with the JVs last year. Dylan Casterline is another solid defensive player.”
Those are just some of the possibilities and everyone on this team will probably shift around until the right pieces are in place. McEvoy, Esposito, Tozser and St. John were voted team captains for the season.
Former SUNY Cortland player and Lansing alumnus Sean Streb is O’Shea’s assistant and brings a ton of knowledge to the Trojan sidelines this season. Chad Totman returns to coach the Homer JVs. Kevin Douglass will coach the modified squad.
HOMER IS IN in the Freedom National Division with Cortland, ES-M, Jamesville-DeWitt and Mexico. The Freedom American Division features Auburn, Central Square, Christian Brothers Academy, Fowler, Fulton and Oswego. The Trojans play each team once for a total of 10 league games.
“We in the same division with J-D so I would say that is the team that will definitely gives us a hard time,” O’Shea stated. “I think we can compete with anyone else on our side. J-D is the class of our side and everyone on the other side will be tough.
“Our goal is to grow as a team,” he added. “We want to make sectionals and do something there in the post-season.”
Homer’s first home match is next Wednesday against Fulton on George Butts Field at 6 p.m. The home schedule will be varsity only games at Butts Field with JV matches being played at Homer Junior High School.