Coach: Will Gifford, fourth season
Last season: 9-9-0, lost in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs
Key returners: D Eric Gil (Sr.), F Gavin Mitchell (Sr.), F Uriel Romero (Sr.)
What to know: In his second year in charge, head coach Will Gifford led the Bulldogs to the state playoffs for the first time since 2003. A pair of one-goal wins in region play against West Forsyth was the difference.
Central returns one of the county’s top scorers in forward Gavin Mitchell (16 goals last season) and second-team all-county players in defender Eric Gil and forward Uriel Romero, who had six goals last season despite missing the first eight games with an injury.
Coach: Chris Wilson, ninth season
Last season: 14-4-2, reached quarterfinals of the Class 7A state playoffs
Key returners: D Nick Alliston (Jr.), F Kyler Darsey (Jr.), MF Hayden Fontana (Jr.), MF Christian Girard (Sr.), MF Trey Hines (Jr.), D Sreekar Kanaparti (Sr.), MF Logan Racine (Sr.), F Pablo Samur (Sr.), GK Arda Urgen (Jr.), MF Campbell Wilson (Soph.)
Key newcomers: D Trey Kirksey (Soph.), F Tyler Nadiak (Fr.), D Jay Patterson (Jr.), F Thomas Powers (Jr.), F Noah Sivinski (Jr.), GK Chris Smith (Jr.), D Grant Ziegler (Jr.)
What to know: Lambert ended some recent state playoff frustration last season, breaking out of the first-round slumps with a run to the state quarterfinals. With 10 returners, including six starters, the Longhorns hope another state playoff run is in the mix.
The bulk of Lambert’s experience is in the midfield, which returns starters Christian Girard, Trey Hines and Logan Racine – three returning all-county selections – along with Hayden Fontana and Campbell Wilson. Nick Alliston is the lone returning starter on defense, though the return of Jay Patterson after missing last season to injury will be a boost.
Coach: Jared Steinberg, third season
Last season: 3-14-1
Key returners: Arthur Boyzo, Sebastian Garcia, Ernesto Platas, Lucian Tinsley, Carson Tomassetti
Key newcomers: Thor Bilstrom, Andrew Johnson, Andrian Resendiz
What to know: Third-year head coach Jared Steinberg could really be called two-and-a-half-year head coach. Last season was his first full one in charge of the boys program after taking over during the 2016 season, and the Raiders struggled, losing 12 consecutive games before ending the season with a win against Pickens County. Steinberg expects a better all-around product this season, with a more aggressive attack and disciplined defense. “We have a number of talented players who, if they can learn to play together, can bring us a lot of success,” Steinberg said.
Coach: Domenic Martelli, third season
Last season: 10-9-2, lost in the quarterfinals of the Class 1A state playoffs
Key returners: D Michael Birozes (Sr.), MF Kane Alvarez Del Pino (Jr.), D Brendan Kane (Soph.), F Arturo Munguia (Soph.), MF Joe Metz (Soph.), F Ben Rivard (Sr.), F Conner Sassine (Jr.), F Mathew Stone (Soph.), MF Gabe Villar (Sr.)
Key newcomers: MF Jake Lair (Soph.), MF Nicolas Martelli (Soph.)
What to know: The Paladins are coming off their second state quarterfinals appearance since joining the GHSA, and they return a lot of the attacking power that got them there in Gabe Villar (16 goals) and Conner Sassine (15 goals). If senior Ben Rivard returns from injury, that’d be even better, and Martelli is confident in sophomore forwards Arturo Munguia and Mathew Stone.
But Pinecrest is otherwise a young group after losing 11 players who started or contributed last season, including the team’s entire defensive unit other than senior Michael Birozes. The Paladins will need sophomores like Brendan Kane and Nicolas Martelli to help form an aggressive identity that turns teams over and creates quick attack opportunities for Villar, Sassine and company.
Coach: Tom Braun, 14th season
Last season: 12-6-1, lost in the first round of the Class 7A state playoffs
Key returners: D Lorenzo Betti (Jr.), MF Trevor Byrne (Sr.), MF Ryan Fierle (Sr.), F Walker Haymond (Sr.), D Bryant Linares (Soph.), D Carter Mason (Soph.), F Chris Mendelson (Sr.), PJ Mollenauer (Jr.), MF Nick Postell (Soph.), GK Aarnav Sandhu (Sr.), MF Andrew Shah (Jr.)
Key newcomers: F Hernan Benito (Sr.), D Diego Cruz (Sr.), MF Patrick Kelly (Fr.), F Drew Wardle (Sr.)
What to know: The War Eagles had a breakthrough of sorts last season, capturing a share of the Region 5-7A championship with rival Lambert before losing in the first round of the state playoffs to eventual Class 7A champion Meadowcreek.
South returns a bevy of experienced players from last season, including midfielders Trevor Byrne and Andrew Shah; defenders Ryan Fierle and PJ Mollenauer, and goal keeper Aarnav Sandhu. Each were all-county selections last season.
Coach: Jason Bayush, third season
Last season: 5-13-0
Key returners: D Parker Campbell (Jr.), MF Jamie Mata (Sr.), MF Carlos Reyes (Sr.)
What to know: Consider the Wolverines perhaps the unluckiest team last season. West went 2-8 in region play, but six of those losses were by one goal. Head coach Jason Bayush is hopeful the team can reverse those fortunes with a team equal parts experience and youthful talent, led by first team all-county forward Carlos Reyes, who finished with nine goals last season after being moved from center back to striker. Junior Parker Campbell was a second team all-county selection as a defender. Bayush has been emphasizing the Wolverines’ ability to finish games.