The Hockomock League is fast-paced, it is physical, and many times it is very direct. Possession is difficult when you have no time on the ball and that is how many teams in the so-called “Hack-omock” play soccer. But that title, while meant derogatively, is more a product of long-standing geographical and sporting rivalries and a league in which every point is critical for both a league title and just to earn enough to qualify for the tournament. The only league that really compares overall in style of play, size, and competitiveness is the Bay State. Try telling Attleboro and North or, in the case of the BSC, Needham and Wellesley to relax and just play when they take the field against each other. It is the same for Mansfield and Foxboro, Oliver Ames and Canton, and countless other battles that transcend any one sport.
That ultra-balanced competition leads to a season filled with one-goal games and nonstop action. At the end, the Davenport should come down to Canton and Oliver Ames again, but watch out for a charging Sharon team. Milford will add another playoff-caliber squad with Foxboro right in the mix. The Kelly-Rex looks to be the usual battle between Franklin, Mansfield, Attleboro, and King Philip although no one knows what to make of newcomers Taunton.
Davenport Division (teams listed alphabetically with 2011 records)
Canton Bulldogs (12-2-6) Co-Davenport Division champions, lost in Division 2 South sectional semifinals 3-2 to Hopkinton
Back to back Davenport championships, a 4-year and 47-game home unbeaten streak, and a 2-year and 38-game unbeaten streak in the league are on the line for the Bulldogs entering the 2012 season. Head Coach Dan Erickson feels that with the graduation of an exceptional class of players those streaks may come to an end this year, but the Bulldogs will still be a very competitive team. Michael Denehy (7 goals) and Matt Lennon (6 goals) are the top returning scorers and will have to make up for the loss of Scott Levy and Chris Murray. The biggest loss may be in net where it will be hard to replace Colby Gavigan, who notched 13 shutouts last year and gave up only 12 goals in 19.5 games. According to Coach Erickson, keep an eye on sophomore Liam Collins who could be a revelation this season.
Foxboro Warriors (9-9) Lost to Hingham 4-0 in the 1st Round of the Division 2 South sectional
Head Coach Pat Nash is a defensive-minded coach and will want his Warriors to be very difficult to play against this season and would love to pull out a series of 1-0 wins. After losing leading scorer and midfielder Sawyer Fleck to graduation, goals may be hard to come by and captain Aidan Hyland will be the key man up top trying to get Foxboro on the board. Junior goalie Nick Adair had an impressive season in 2011 and will be called upon again to organize the defense and make big saves. Watch for newcomer Brian Bortolloti, who spent a season playing on the Foxboro football team and is back on the pitch this year. No matter who they lost from the squad, Coach Nash expects another postseason run from his team.
Milford Hawks (7-6-5) Lost 2-1 to Tantasqua in 1st Round of Division 1 Central sectional
Milford Head Coach Jim Asam is excited to take his team from the Mid-Wach into the competitive Hockomock League and expects that the Hawks can make an impact right away. Milford is deep with a number of returning players from the squad that was runners-up in the league in 2011. Senior forwards Hugo Silva and Lucas Deaguiar will lead the line and provide the goals and watch for Justin Asam (the coach’s son) as he provides creativity from the center of midfield. Milford did lose two attackers from last year’s team and their goalie but with 53 players in preseason the program continues to grow. One key for the Hawks to be successful, according to Coach Asam, will be limiting the number of shots they allow. Last year Milford gave up 12-15 shots a game. They have to lower that number to be successful in their 1st year in the Hock.
Oliver Ames Tigers (11-4-3) Co-Davenport Division Champions, Lost 1-0 to Catholic Memorial in the 1st Round of the Division 1 South sectional
The Tigers go into the season as one of the main favorites to claim the Davenport title, but Coach John Barata is tempering expectations after OA lost several key players from last year. One of the main returning players is goalie Dave MacKinnon, who is considered one of the best keepers in the league, but there are concerns about the lack of a creative midfielder to spark the attacks. The Tigers will be hoping that Dave Stapleton will continue his rapid development as a goal scorer (he was on the board in OA’s opening game, a 6-0 rout of Whitman Hanson) and are looking for contributions from Lucas Aruajo. If the Tigers can find the finishing they need and MacKinnon can keep things organized at the back, then OA should be right back at the top.
Sharon Eagles (6-7-5) Lost 2-1 (2OT) to Plymouth North in the Preliminary Round of Division 2 South sectional
There is a lot of buzz surrounding the 2012 Eagles. Almost to a man, every coach has mentioned Sharon as the team to watch out for in the league this season. The main reason is that Head Coach Barry Kaye has brought back almost his entire team from last year’s playoff qualifiers. Leading scorers Will Ginsberg and Ian Beach are both back as well as the leading creative midfielder, Tim Peng. Goalie Mitchell Goldenberg will be a big loss at the back, but the experience of the Eagles could make this an interesting year and just adds to the depth of teams in the Davenport Division.
Stoughton Black Knights (1-16-1)
At least one coach has named Stoughton as a team to watch out for in 2012. Only one win in 2011 masks a team that was competitive in almost every game (7 losses by a single goal) and was unlucky not to have better results. This year, a young squad will be molded by new a head coach, Martyn Emery, and will look to turn things around very quickly. Josh Mitchell and Kyle Silverman are two incoming freshmen that will be expected to jump right in and make an impact and the captains (junior Michael Gallagher, senior Mike Paukner, and senior Sheldon Oliveira) will need to provide the leadership to help the Knights make the leap.
Attleboro Bombardiers (8-8-3) Lost 2-1 to Franklin in Preliminary Round of Division 1 South sectional
The Bombardiers had another solid season in 2011, but losing star forward Dominick Machado to the Revolution Academy (and Reserve team) will be a big blow this year. The loss of midfielder troy Martins will also have an impact as he could be counted on to pop up and score important goals for the team. Coach Peter Pereira will always have his team lined up to compete and to try and play a quick passing game, but he will need senior Alain Laurent to make the leap and become a consistent goal scorer. Defensively, the Bombardiers have experience with captains Noah Phelps and goalie Spenser Powell. Sophomores Matt Rodrigues, Ben Chomyszak, and Kyle Lameiras will be counted on to provide sparks.
Franklin Panthers (6-5-7) Kelly-Rex Division Champions, Lost in 1st round 1-0 to Greater New Bedford Voke in Division 1 South sectional
The Panthers will be expected to challenge for the Kelly-Rex title again this season and are creating buzz from coaches inside and outside of the conference. The main reason for the optimism surrounding Franklin (#20 in the preseason ESPN Boston poll) is the return of leading scorer Zach Scafati, who Head Coach Fran Bositis calls “one of the best players we’ve had at Franklin.” Scafati was missing through injury during Franklin’s tight 1-0 loss at #1 seed Greater New Bedford and his goals will be expected to lead the Panthers on a deeper run in 2012. A preseason knee injury to Brian Sasserman is a big blow, but with 12 returning seniors, Franklin should have the depth and experience to make up for that loss. As with almost all Hockomock League teams, Franklin will look to build from the back first and should be a tough team to break down.
King Philip Warriors (7-7-5) Lost to Needham 4-1 in the 1st Round of the Division 1 South sectional
The warriors lost a total of 17 seniors from last year’s roster, which is an incredible amount of turnover. The key to the defense will return, however, in the person of Jonathan Keys. The giant central defender, and two-year captain, will be expected to lead the team with typically hard tackling and strong presence at the back. He will be without his two partners in defense Matt Hootstein and Ian Pimental so this will require a lot of work on communication. KP is generally a strong and physical team and this year promises to be no different for Head Coach Kip Lewis. Look for sophomore Jack Stall to make a big step up after getting a lot of experience in his freshman season.
Mansfield Hornets (4-8-5)
Head Coach Steve Sheridan believes this will be a team that is good enough to return to the Division 1 tournament. The Hornets have always been a defensive-minded team and the back line should be the strength of the squad once again this year. According to Coach Sheridan, finishing is still the “weakness” of the team and has always been an issue. Last season the Hornets played in 15 one-goal games, meaning they were a couple of bounces away from having a playoff-caliber season in 2011. Newcomers John Menz and Andrew Sarkis could provide an offensive spark that Mansfield desperately need and this could be a year in which the bounces go their way and they find themselves competing in the tournament.
North Attleboro Rocketeers (4-9-5)
The Rocketeers lost a number of one-goal games last season and were unlucky to not have made a run at the postseason. It was a relatively young midfield and attack for Coach Geoff Burgess who will be missing players because of the Revolution Academy’s switch to a 10-month program. Unlike Attleboro, North will be missing three stars, senior Ryan Kingsley, junior Luke Albertini, and sophomore Justin Freitas. This is a huge blow for a team that was hoping to make the leap this year to challenge for the division title.
Taunton Tigers (7-7-5) Lost 6-1 to BC High in Preliminary Round of Division 1 South sectional
Head Coach Dave Purpura led the Tigers to the playoffs in his first season at the helm and now he takes his team into the hyper-competitive Hockomock League. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers adapt to the physical and fast-paced game of the Hock.