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Free Kicks: Several soccer teams off to fine starts

It is very early in the soccer season, yet it might not be too early to predict fine seasons for some teams that have gotten off to excellent starts through Monday.

On the boys side, Greencastle-Antrim, McConnellsburg and Shalom Christian - all teams that have been successful in recent years - are still unbeaten, while Waynesboro has gotten off to a 4-1 start.

For the girls, McConnellsburg has not lost yet, but had played only one game through Monday, while Waynesboro has put up a 4-1 record.

The Blue Devil boys will find out a lot about themselves this week. G-A hosts Boiling Springs on Tuesday night in a game between two Mid Penn Colonial Division favorites, and Saturday at Greencastle's tournament, one of the teams is Susquehannock, which was a PIAA finalist in Class AA last year.

Two of the boys unbeatens will meet Thursday when Shalom Christian travels to McConnellsburg for a 6 p.m. contest.

Another interesting battle looms Saturday morning at 10 when 'Boro hosts Chambersburg.

For the girls, Waynesboro faces its biggest test in the Colonial Division when it hosts Northern York on Tuesday. The Polar Bears are favored to win the division, but the Maidens have a chance to make a statement.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: A coach - not from the area - was overheard by an official during a scrimmage in August exhorting his team to play with more intensity.

He said, "You guys need to start playing a little more like Donald and a little less like Hillary."

LOW-SCORING RIVALS: McConnellsburg hosted Fannett-Metal in a boys Sideling Hill League early-season showdown Monday night and the Spartans emerged with a taut 1-0 victory on a penalty kick goal by Ethan Barclay in the final two minutes of the second overtime.

"It was a great defensive game," McConnellsburg coach Cory Houck said.

In the previous six games these teams have played, 19 goals were scored. Things have changed.

Houck said, "Losing all the offensive power we had last year is tough. We are out-possessing teams, but don't have the scoring up front to knock in a lot of goals."

Instead, the Spartans have changed formations and are emphasizing defense more.

It worked against the Tigers and their all-time leading scorer Mikell McGee on Monday.

"In other games against him, we've marked him with a player," Houck said. "This time I let it up to the defense to know where he was at all times."

NOT GOOD NEWS: John Ramirez will not be patrolling the midfield for the Chambersburg boys this fall, and that's a big loss for the Trojans.

Ramirez was the player who linked the defense to the offense and often made the pass that led to the pass that created a scoring opportunity.

Greencastle coach Scott Gelsinger said last year, "He was the best player out there today. He really controlled the play."

But Ramirez aggravated a knee injury in the preseason, and received word just as the season started that he's out for the year.

For a Trojan team that will be without dangerous striker Rafael Bonilla until at least the end of September, and therefore had to move Nathan Maynard up front to compensate, that's a tough pill to swallow.

Note: The Free Kicks soccer notebook will run in each Wednesday's paper during the season.