ELSIE — Chris Parker has stepped down as Ovid-Elsie’s boys soccer coach after leading the Marauders for the past seven seasons — the last three of which netted league championships.
Enter Justin Fluharty, Parker’s assistant from last year, when the Marauders shared the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference championship with Byron.
Fluharty said he’s ready for the new challenge and it appears he is right. Ovid-Elsie began the season with a 5-1 record — including a victory over Byron in a early-season MMAC showdown.
“We think we’re going to be really competitive in the league,” Fluharty said. “We’re young. We’ve lost a lot of seniors. But with our experience we still should be competitive. We played Byron early in the season and got a 4-3 victory over them. That’s a tough game but it was a fun game.”
Fluharty became a varsity assistant last year, but has been involved for a long time with the Ovid-Elsie Soccer Club, he said.
Among the seniors who graduated last spring were Chris Zruna, who led the area in scoring with a single-season school record 48 goals and was named The Argus-Press Boys Soccer Player of the Year. Zruna graduated with 92 career goals, second-best in school history.
Fluharty said the Marauders will also miss Grant Thornton and Chase Cabral off last year’s team as it takes on a tough league slate.
“Typically it’s Byron, Montrose, us and Durand has had some pretty strong years too,” Fluharty said. “Byron and Durand played in a tournament this year and it was 0-0 game that went into a shootout. We played Byron and won 4-3, so a close game. I think it’s going to be very competitive.”
The Marauders do return Cal Byrnes, a junior striker, who was an honorable mention All-Area player a year ago. Other key returners are Colin Fluharty, a sophomore, Ethan Byrnes, a senior midfielder, Nate Reser, a junior goalie, and Cam Cuthbert, a junior midfielder.
The Marauders fared 16-3 and went 13-1 in the MMAC in 2018, its third straight year with a league championship — O-E won the Tri-Valley Conference West in 2016 and 2017.
“This year’s team reminds me of the seventh grade,” Colin Fluharty said. “On that team, a lot of the players were eighth-graders and we did really good that year. And I feel we’re going to do pretty good this year as well.”
Cal Byrnes said the goal is the same this fall as last. Byrnes, who scored 13 goals a year ago, said his role may be bigger as a goal scorer.
“We’re just going to play more team-wise and we’re going to make sure that we spread the field and get our passes going through,” Byrnes said. “Because we all just have to find one person. And if we have an open shot, take it.”
2019 Boys Soccer Capsules
Last year: 16-3, MMAC co-champions
Head coach: Justin Fluharty
Key returners: Cal Byrnes, Jr., ST; Colin Fluharty, So., C-D; Ethan Bynres, Sr., M; Nate Reeser, Jr., GK; Cam Cuthbert, Jr., M.
Key newcomers: Korbyn Fluharty, Jr., MF; Josh Swender, Jr., ST; T.J. Hurst, Sr.
Last year: 18-4, co-champions MMAC
Head coach: Greg Williams
Key returners: Matthew Williams, Jacob Miller, Justin Frye, Hunter Helka, James Miller.
Key newcomers: Alessio Nieuwenhuizen, Nathan Webster, Billy Bailey.
Outlook: Matthew Williams was an honorable mention All-Stater in 2018 after scoring 31 goals with 14 assists as a sophomore. An early-season loss to Ovid-Elsie, which shared the league title with Byron last year, has not deterred the team’s determination, said head coach Greg Williams. “We expect to be competing for the MMAC championship and make a good push in the post season.”
Last year: 0-15
Head coach: Blake Golab
Key returners: Jake Conklin, Sr.; Garret Andrejack, Sr.; Blake Galesk, Sr.; Luke Tuller, So.
Key newcomers: Payton Brown, Fr.; Sam Knight, Fr.; Nick Hetfield, Fr.
Outlook: Corunna opened the season at 1-5 and 0-2 in the Flint Metro League. The Cavaliers have just four seniors on this fall’s squad, but Golab said the team has battled in every contest so far, with goalie Conklin and center back Andrejack playing well.
Andrejack can also play center midfield, his regular position. Galesk was the team’s leading goal scorer last season and Tuller — defender/center mid, should also be a key player.
Last year: 1-13-2
Head coach: Chet Ptasnik
Key returners: Ben Schroeder, Ty Willing, Tanner Williams, Haylei Drope.
Key newcomers: Cody Harlan, Fr., Landon Soule, Fr.
Outlook: Ptasnik said Chesaning has some good experience back and hopes that translates into more victories in 2019. “We have a majority of returning starters with one of the girls from last year, Haylei Drope. I believe she will do well this season with a little more experience.” Schroeder was the team’s leading scorer and assists player last season. Willing has solid foot skills and Williams is back at keeper.
Last year: 14-7
Head coach: Dave Hensel
Key returners: Gabe Fielder, Sr., D; Robby Burke, Sr., D; Jackson Tillman, Sr., M; Cooper Neyman, Sr., GK.
Key newcomers: Ty Fielder, Fr., MF: Jaxson Smith, Fr., S; Ethan Hansen, Sr., MF.
Outlook: Durand must replace Dylan Freier, who graduated last season after recording 23 goals and 10 assists a year ago. Hensel said the team will continue to be strong. “We look to contend in the MMAC in the mix for the top spot,” the coach said via email. “Our schedule has a couple of nonconference games that will challenge the team. We look to finish the season with as many or more wins as last year.”
Last year: 7-10-1
Head coach: Graham Lockwood
Key returners: Jackson Wilson, Sr.; Chris Freels, Sr.; Sam Marshall, Sr.; Vince Barberio, Sr.; Kade Clone, Jr.; Cam Salas, Jr.; Tyler Henne, Jr.; Andrew Kingsbury, So.
Key newcomers: Alvaro Moreno, So.; Jan Birmanns, So.; Dylan Hulliberger, Fr.; Brayden Thomas, Fr.; Aaron Willoughby, Fr.; Adam Myers, Fr.
Outlook: Laingsburg reached the Division 3 district championship game last season but fell to Lake Fenton 2-1 after taking an early 1-0 lead. “We have a good blend of experienced players and new players,” Lockwood said. “We are looking to build each day in practice and in games. We are looking to compete for a district title this year.”
Last year: 5-14-2
Head coach: Phil Gobel
Key returners: Jake Wood, Sr.; Joey Devaras, Sr.; Noah Jafri, Sr.; Andrew Savage, Sr.; Andrew Vreibel, Sr.
Key newcomers: Hunter Babcock, Fr.; Tyler Hufnagel, Fr.
Outlook: Gobel said Owosso has a relatively young team after graduating 13 seniors, including first team all-Flint Metro player Sam Roose. The Trojans stood 1-5 after the first six games this fall, highlighted by a 1-0 road victory over neighboring rival Corunna.
Last year: 3-9-3
Head coach: Brett Ryan
Key returners: Tyler Bogner, Sr., F; Elijah Delaney, Sr., MF; Jordan Keck, So., MF; Tanner McCann, So., F; Connor Passalaqua, Jr., MF; Drake VanWormer, So., MF.
Key newcomers: Bryce Krupp, So., F; Trevor Krauss, Jr., MF; Jared Killingsworth, Sr., GK; Tyler Webb, Fr., MF.
Outlook: Perry is a young squad still finding its way, according to Ryan. “We lost 10 players from last year and we’re a young team led by Bogner. We’re looking to get better every game.”