After losing 21 players to graduation, the Huntington High School boys’ soccer team has plenty of positions to fill.
The Blue Devils had a senior laden team last fall and now head coach John Pagano and assistant coach Jason Suarez have plenty of work to do. Practice begins Monday, August 22 and the action will ramp up quickly. A multi-team scrimmage is set for Wednesday, August 31 at 8 a.m. Non-league home games are scheduled against Patchogue-Medford on Saturday, September 3 at 1 p.m. and Northport on Tuesday, September 6 at 4 p.m.
The 2015 campaign was a splendid one for Huntington, which compiled a league mark of 11-1-2 and an overall record of 15-2-2. The Blue Devils advanced to the county semifinals for the second time in three years. The team’s 15 victories were the most for a Huntington boys’ soccer squad since 1980.
Huntington was vying for its first appearance in the Suffolk finals since 1971, but the Blue Devils fell just short to No. 1 seeded Brentwood, 1-0.
The Blue Devils’ march to the Suffolk Class AA Final Four will always be remembered, but Pagano knows the team cannot rest on past glories. It’s time to assemble a new group of competitive players.
Huntington lost many outstanding players to graduation last June, including Carlos Rivera, who was named All-County after leading Suffolk with 22 goals and seven assists. Also moving on were All-Conference honorees Olvin Palma, who ran Huntington’s midfield and Marlon Licona. All-League player Wilber Parada also graduated.
Pagano anticipates a “major rebuilding year,” but with so many talented players in the pipeline, anything is possible.
This year’s team will be led by returning All-League stars Mark Rafuse and Nat Amato, defensive specialist Matt Gelb and midfield Kevin Gulizio. Defender Dennilson Osorto is also eligible to return.
Rafuse is a speedy defender who is expected to play a bigger role on the field than ever before. Amato tallied eight shutouts last fall in his first season as the Blue Devils’ goalie. He was also named to the Academic All-County team. Gelb and Gulizio are both expected to start this fall.
Pagano will surely look to last year’s junior varsity team that went 10-5-1 for the players he needs to fill out his lineup. Coached by Jose Alfaro, the 28 player squad (including 16 freshmen) was captained by Aidan Forbes, Luis Ortiz Colato, Josh Yanuck and Gerard Federici.
A very competitive team, the JV’s losses were all close. The Blue Devils dropped four games by a single goal and a fifth contest by two goals. The team was led by leading scorer and forward Roodjerry Geneus, center midfielder Ortiz Colato and Forbes, who can play a variety of positions. Huntington had a 10-4 mark in league games.
Many players have been training informally with one another for months. Pagano will look to turn up the pace quickly once practice officially gets underway in two weeks.