High School Soccer

2014 Philadelphia Boys High School Soccer Preview (District 12)

Photo: Roman seniors Diego Ramirez, going to play at Cabrini, and Mariano Cepeda, going to play at Holy Family, along with Roman assistant coach Jerry Brindisi.

A quick note: The Philadelphia Public League has three divisions, with the top two teams from B and C divisions promoting to the higher division, while the bottom two teams from A and B drop down. In the regular season, teams play all the teams in their division to get playoff seeding. The top eight (out of twelve) teams in A make the playoffs, while the top two teams in B and C also advance into the playoffs.

The Catholic League has only one twelve-team division. The top ten teams advance to the playoffs.

While both leagues have a traditional single elimination playoff that will determine a league champion, three schools will make the state-wide playoff. The state competition groups schools based on population. Single A schools have under two hundred boys. Double A schools have two to four hundred boys, and triple A schools have over four hundred. Each league will determine its best school in the size, and they will play each other to determine whether the Public or Catholic League team advances to states.

Public League Division A

Much of the talent of Philadelphia’s Public League comes from lower-class backgrounds. Many players are immigrants. Some players switch schools over the summer. This means the league shifts power quickly. No coach can say with confidence how their team will do, given the transitory nature of many of their players’ lives, until the season is truly underway. With that caveat in mind, here are some rough estimates of how the league will play out in 2014.

Southern, Prep Charter, Fels will likely make up the middle of the pack. Southern arrived for its first recent season in Division A last year. They surprised everyone by fighting, finished sixth in the twelve team division, taking scalps of powerhouses along the way. While they have a strong program, they are graduating some talent, and will likely finish lower this year.

Prep went all the way to the single A Public League Championship, falling 2-1 to PACS. They graduated two great players, but have a core of talent that should keep them competitive. Their coach, Dan Logue has left, so they will face a transitional year.

Fels only made the playoffs late last season. They advanced through the play-in round and looked good in their quarterfinal before falling to Central. There is a core of talent, with only a few key contributors graduating.

Bartram, Lincoln, Franklin Towne Charter (FTC), and Olney Charter High School are going to be in a relegation battle. The bottom two placed teams from A Division will go to B Division after this season. Bartram has talent, but finished tenth in the A Division largely because of a shortage of players. Two or three freshmen could make all the difference for the team, but if they don’t get the numbers, they will struggle.

2014 will be Palumbo’s first ever season in the A Division. They had a strong team in B Division and only graduated a few important players. Palumbo has academically gifted players, so expect smart soccer from them.

Lincoln didn’t make the playoffs last year. They got results against the bottom dwellers in the A division, but will need an infusion of talent to break into the top eight and the playoff picture.

FTC made the playoffs in 2013 with a late surge. They graduated three of their best players, and have a new coach. With so many changes it will be a tough year.

Olney finished first in the B Division. They did well in their play-in game, losing by a goal after dominating possession and chances. They graduated five major contributors to their midfield and goal scoring. The combination of promotion to a tougher league, and losing team leaders should make for a struggle.

Four teams will contend for the top places in the league and the championship. 2013 Champion Central graduated seven varsity contributors. Jacob Dillon will go on and play for Bryn Athyn College. Central lost talent but can look to a strong group of junior varsity players to fill the holes.

Northeast has the largest population in the school district, in a neighborhood where soccer has always been big. They won the championship two years ago, and in 2013 dominated the first half of the championship, only to lose. They did lose important players, but they have the numbers to replace them.

Philadelphia Academy Charter School (PACS) won the single A Philadelphia Public League title game. They finished second in the league last year, and advanced to the semifinals of the playoffs. They were excellent at winning penalties. With most of their talent coming back from a successful season, PACS will have legitimate hopes of bringing home the big trophy, and with only Palumbo and Prep Charter to beat it is the favorite to repeat as single A champions.

Washington had a down year in 2013, finishing fifth in the Public League and losing to Prep Charter in the quarterfinals. However, Washington has won more Public League Championships in the past ten years than anyone else. They have a strong program and will not stay down for long.

B Division

Frankford dropped down into the B, graduating a couple kids. With Frankford’s tradition of success and talent, they should be able to claim the B-Division.

Masterman also dropped down, but is not likely to win the division, as it is a young team with some players still learning the game. Ben Franklin and Kensington dominated in C Division last year. Kensington has had a strong preseason. Both teams will likely do well, but it remains to be seen if they can claim a top two finish and perhaps win promotion consecutively.

Catholic League

The Catholic League should show competitive play this year, with a number of strong teams losing star players. Defending champs Judge will rebuild their midfield after graduating Joe Hansen and Ryan Nork (who will be playing soccer on scholarship for La Salle University). St. Joe’s Prep and La Salle CHS have traditionally been title contenders. La Salle will not have been happy with their fifth place finish last year, and with their tradition of success, expect them to do something. Lansdale should also be considered in the top tier. Last year the smaller 2A school played with the best teams. They went to the final and lost, but that was good enough to make them the 2A champions for the Catholic League, and they beat FTC to become the district 12 champs in 2A.

Roman did well last year, finishing third in the league. They were disappointed that their playoffs did not reflect that. They graduate two seniors that will play for college teams. Diego Ramirez will play at Cabrini and Mariano Cepeda will play at Holy Family.

Archbishop Wood had a moment of glory, when they ended Judge’s win streak with the last game of the season. Like last year they will be capable of beating anyone.

Conwell-Egan is a perennial dark horse, finding a few wins against strong programs every year. Conwell Egan has added a few students, so they will play for the double A spot. Last year it was the single A school in the Catholic League which put them through to the District 12 title game, which they won definitively last year, 5-1.

Archbishop Ryan can also surprise. After a poor start in 2013, Ryan went on a run in the playoffs. Ryan had a new coach last year, and over the course of the year, the team found its way. Expect a rejuvenated team that will carry on the tradition of Ryan soccer this year.

O’Hara finished tenth last year. Carroll and McDevitt finished in eleventh and twelfth place, and unless an infusion of talent arrives, these three will end at the bottom of the table. However, McDevitt dropped in size and will be the only single A school in the league, so they will automatically advance to play the single A champion of the Public League for a place in the state championship. This should be an exciting game, as the teams will likely be equal in strength.

9 Comments

  1. Glad you guys are doing High School Previews! Just wanted to make a correction that the departing Prep Charter coach is named ‘Dan Logue’

  2. Josh, thanks for doing this again this year! It’s a great service, especially for players, parents, coaches, and alums.

  3. Josh, enjoy your previews and updates during the year. How about Bonner in the Catholic League this year?

    • My understanding is that Bonner is not playing a varsity team. Last year they had no team.

      • They do have a team and also had a team last year. They open next week.

      • Bonner has had a strong soccer program for quite a few years under the direction of head coach, Jim Strandberg. Bonner lost in the second round of the playoffs last year – you need to get better information!!! They have some great players including a goalie that has a better save percentage than Judge! You might want to look a little further.

  4. What happen to Neumann-Gorreti ? I know they were catholic league bottom dwellers but were usually in the league.

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