ANGOLA – Highschool soccer begins in Western New York tonight because the Dunkirk Marauders journey to Angola to tackle the Lake Shore Eagles in a non-league soccer contest at 6:30 pm at Lake Shore Excessive Faculty.
The competition is one in every of two video games in Part VI on the opening night time of the season, whereas the remainder of WNY has an additional day or two of follow earlier than their seasons start.
“We must always draw a superb crowd, this half is thrilling. The flip facet is, I feel we’re mentally ready, however I simply do not know the place we’ll be bodily but.” Dunkirk coach Mark Benton mentioned.
Dunkirk will subject 23 gamers for the opening sport, with an extra seven anticipated to be eligible to play in week two. Nonetheless, of these 23 gamers, senior working again Quanteer Neallard is the one returning starter on offense enjoying the identical place as final yr when he ran for greater than 1,000 yards.
“Quanteer Neallard would be the man we’re going as much as with our cart.” Benton mentioned heading into the season opener.
Most of the new faces on Dunkirk’s roster are first-year varsity gamers who’ve left the junior varsity program.
“Beginning work final yr, we needed to construct this system. That is the primary yr most of these guys make it to the varsity stage.” Benton mentioned. “To get this system again to the place it was a number of years in the past, it isn’t going to occur in a single day.”
A yr in the past — after a brief COVID hiatus — the Marauders earned their first win of the season towards Lake Shore 20-6.
Dunkirk jumped out to a 6-0 lead after the primary quarter, a 14-0 lead at halftime and a 20-0 benefit within the second half towards Lake Shore earlier than the Eagles’ solely rating of the sport.
That 20-6 win ended up being Dunkirk’s solely win of the common season, however the Marauders received two video games within the postseason Class B Chuck Funke Bowl comfort event. Lake Shore additionally completed the 2021 common season with a win, a 28-22 victory over East Aurora.
This yr can be a a lot completely different narrative, whatever the end result. All three Dunkirk touchdowns in final season’s sport have been scored by gamers who not play for the Marauders. The primary landing was a Ted Roberts carry, the second was a Roberts interception of quarterback Javier DeJesus and the third was a DeJesus carry. Roberts later transferred to St. Francis and DeJesus graduated.
Dunkirk additionally misplaced many different gamers on either side of the ball, however Neallard stays a relentless for the Marauders’ offense. Though he did not discover the tip zone in final season’s contest towards Lake Shore, Neallard led Dunkirk with 22 carries for 156 yards.
“Neallard performed nicely for us (towards Lake Shore) final yr, particularly within the opening collection. He had some huge runs for us,” Benton mentioned.
Dunkirk’s new beginning quarterback this yr is Noah Sikes, who comes into this season with little expertise from a yr in the past after being changed at occasions by DeJesus. Sikes began two video games for Dunkirk final season. Now, it is his flip to be the principle man within the heart.
In line with Benton, Lake Shore will return a extra skilled staff this season after enjoying with a younger roster a yr in the past.
“They’ve returned lots of their youngsters. They’ve a strong roster and possibly have extra expertise than us this yr.” Benton mentioned. “Their quarterback can run and throw, so we’ll need to plan for that. … It may be a superb sport. I anticipate it to be a tricky non-league for us.”
Whereas Dunkirk is a a lot youthful staff this yr, Benton would not but know if that essentially places the Marauders at an obstacle.
“This is among the youngest groups I’ve began a yr with. This can be each thrilling and fascinating. I actually do not know what to anticipate entering into.” Benton mentioned. “Issues have been wanting good up to now. … Now that the video games are actual, I will be to see how nicely we will carry out.”