Young guns step in to replace the old guard

Lake Placid boys soccer team (Enterprise photo — Lou Reuter)

LAKE PLACID — After riding experience, size and talent to its fifth-straight Section VII, Class C boys soccer title a year ago, Lake Placid will turn toward a slew of young guns this season in an effort to notch its sixth crown in a row by the time the playoffs roll around.

The Blue Bombers graduated 10 players, including Stuart Baird, who was the Northern Soccer League’s Division II most valuable player, and coach Stuart Hemsley said he’s hoping a fresh group of youngsters can keep the winning trend alive.

“The ninth- and 10th-graders are going to be the backbone of the team with the help of the seniors,” Hemsley said. “We’re small, quick and young. We’ve gone from seniors to freshmen, and at this point I’m cautious about trying to coach too much into them early in the season. I’m just letting them play.”

Senior Jaso Hannula leads Lake Placid into action this season as a returning first-team all league defender and one of the most talented players in the North Country.

“Jaso is in a league of his own,” Hemsley said describing his longtime sweeper. “He’s going to lead from the back. He’s going to score goals and he’s going to shut down the opposition. He’s going to make everyone on this team a better player.”

Juniors Hayden Plank and Cooper Holmes will join Hannula as Lake Placid’s starting defenders. Key midfielders include Jarell Paul, sophomore Tyler Hinckely and freshman Joose Kahkonen.

When it comes to quickness on the attack, senior forward Carter Grady has plenty of it, and is expected to be one of the producers along the front line.

“Carter’s speed is second to none,” Hemsley said. “As the school record holder in the 100 meters, the kid has an afterburner after his afterburner.”

Junior Jacob Novick steps into the role of Lake Placid’s starting goalkeeper after playing that position on junior varsity in 2016. Hemsley described his goalie as a great shot stopper who is aggressive.

Sophomore Sebastian Narvaes is also expected to be a playmaker for the team.

A year ago, Lake Placid only had to contend with Seton Catholic and AuSable Valley when it came to the postseason. This fall, that number has increased to four foes, as Saranac Lake has dropped to Class C for the first time and Northern Adirondack has moved back up from its status as a Class D squad last season.

“When it comes to the opposition, it’s going to come from everywhere this year,” Hemsley said. “I’m looking forward to a new rivalry with Saranac Lake soccer that we haven’t had. Would I predict a sixth straight title? I’m not going to predict that at this time, but I’m excited with this team. I’ve got players that can come off the bench and the level of play will not drop. I’ve got four or five that can come up the bench with pace. I’m just going to let the kids play.”