Class change making a difference

Boys Soccer drops to Class 1A begins season with 5-1 record


With an upcoming season to prepare for, new freshman joining and key senior players leaving the team, Coach Phil Pawlowski and Assistant Coach Matt Purtelle had their work cut out for them. The coaches held multiple non-mandated conditioning practices where the team would do everything from weight lifting to working on ball skills. 

During preseason, the team also attended a soccer tournament in Strongsville, Ohio, where the team record was 3-1-1. Although the boys did well during their games, the overall goal was to develop team chemistry rather than win the tournament. 

“I think the tournament went pretty well, and as far as development for the team, I think the main thing was for the team to feel like they were gaining some chemistry with each other. Also, it was helpful to get some real live game competition outside of regular practice,” Purtelle said.

As scrimmages quickly approached, the team began their mandatory camp. The camp lasted for four days for five hours each day on Aug. 15-18. The importance of camp was to condition and bond as a team. The boys even dressed in themes each day, including a day when they all dressed as their head coach Pawlowski. 

“Camp brought everyone on the team together to participate, and everyone was just in a better mood,” sophomore Jordan Delon said.

The boys then voted who they would see as the best fit to represent their team as team captains. Seniors Luke Snavely, Austin Tokar, and Colin Fricke were all voted to represent the team. 

“I was happy that my team voted me captain because it shows that they trust me and look up to me,” Tokar said. 

After all their efforts from their summer conditioning, tournament and camp week, the boys’ hard work paid off and resulted in them winning their first scrimmage, on Aug. 22 against Chartiers Houston, 5-0. 

The first section game was underway, which would be different from previous years. The team had recently been dropped down a division, going from Class 2A to 1A. ​​This would allow the boys a leg-up; since previously, they had played larger schools.

Starting the season strong on Aug. 27, the boys once again defeated their opponent, Beaver, after a hard-fought battle. Making the score 1-0, Delon scored a goal with an assist from junior Jaden Winterhalter. The boys continued to keep a solid defensive playing style throughout the game. Senior goalkeeper Trenton Heasley, recorded five saves throughout the game, ending in a shutout and a resulting victory for the Bulldogs.  

“It felt really good to score, and I think it gave the team more energy to play throughout the rest of the game,” said Delon.

Keeping up the momentum, on Aug. 29, the boys faced Carlynton. The Carlynton team quickly scored at the beginning of the game. Hope was not lost, though, as the boys made a comeback, with Delon and Tokar scoring goals shortly after. The first half of the game finished with another goal for the Bulldogs, scored by Delon. As the weather began to worsen during halftime, strikes of lightning led the game to end and Freedom to a 3-1 win. 

On Aug. 30, Our Lady of the Sacred Heart fell short as the Freedom boys winning streak continued. The game ended 3-1 with goals by Delon, Tokar and Snavely.

On Sep. 1 the momentum continued as the boys outscored Neshannock, winning 2-0. Both goals were scored by Tokar. 

On Sept. 8., the boys lost their first section game with a score of 1-4 against Eden Christian, where freedom’s goal was scored by Delon. 

The team did not allow their loss to interrupt their game, though. On Sept. 12., the boys beat Mohawk 1-0 with a goal by Cal Hickenboth. 

The boys have started their season on a high note and are looking to be a very strong team in their section.

 “Moving down in a section definitely helped us. We have a well-rounded team this year with a lot of chemistry, so I’m looking forward to the season,” Tokar said.