Urbana Soccer- Brianna Skidmore

Urbana Soccer- Brianna Skidmore

Urbana forward Brianna Skidmore takes a shot on goal during practice Thursday afternoon.

Standing near the northern edge of a 152-acre property off Bartholows Road, Bo Eskay pointed to a small piece of land. Struggling to poke out of the sun-baked dirt, the grass on the land had only grown in small patches. “That is the kind of stuff we used to practice on,” Eskay said as he stood next to Jeff Sill. Eskay graduated from Linganore in 1983, and Sill is a 1996 Frederick alum. Both played high school soccer in Frederick County, and they’re now heavily involved in trying to provide what may be the best collection of grass playing fields the county has ever had. On the property where Eskay and Sill stood, FC Frederick has begun construction for what could be an eight-field soccer complex. The project was approved by the Frederick County Planning Commission in December, and FC Frederick obtained grading permits in early August. Since travel soccer clubs Frederick Excel (boys soccer) and Frederick United (girls) combined to form one umbrella organization in 2004, FC Frederick has provided travel soccer in the county for thousands of players. A significant increase in the number of athletes playing year-round soccer, along with the recent availability of turf fields for soccer, has significantly elevated the level of play at the high school level, with area boys and girls teams each winning 11 state titles over the past 15 years. For Urbana girls coach Keith Bauer, having youth play consistently on high-quality surfaces will only further boost the quality of soccer in the area. Sill, who doubles as FC Frederick’s president and the project manager of the complex, said the first phase of the project will include four Bermuda grass fields, “state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage,” a pavilion and a bathroom facility. For each field, FC Frederick plans on providing approximately 60 parking spaces. Sill said the club is operating on an “aggressive schedule” and that if all goes according to plan, the first phase will be complete by the fall of next year. If FC Frederick, a nonprofit organization, can take advantage of other revenue streams, three additional phases will add four fields, two bathroom facilities, two pavilions and open park space that can be geared toward hosting various community events. “Just for these kids to have the opportunity to play on a nice field constantly, it just helps [players’ skills and touch] because you don’t have to worry about a ball taking a bad bounce,” said Bauer, who will enter his second season as Urbana’s head coach. “You’re looking upfield instead of watching the ball and every movement it makes.” The county’s excellence at the high school level figures to continue this year. After making the Class 4A North region final last year, Bauer’s Hawks are again expected to be among the county’s best girls teams despite the graduation of Isabelle Eskay, one of the most skilled distributors in county history. Urbana still returns two potent goal-scorers in forwards Brianna Skidmore and Riley Johnson, along with a steady midfielder in Nyah Savage. Thomas Johnson seems to be in the same boat, having graduated a prolific scorer in Sara Hohn — last year’s Offensive Player of the Year — but returning a versatile midfielder in Elaina Kluttz, a dangerous forward in Mei Homman and starting goalkeeper Alayna Burgamy. In Class 3A, the Patriots usually find themselves butting heads with Linganore, which normally holds its own on the defensive end but must find a way to replace the offensive firepower of the graduated Fiona Rowan. In Class 2A, Walkersville made a surprising run to the state final, toppling heavily-favored Oakdale in the region final before eventually falling to River Hill in the state championship game. The Lions did it with a defense-first mentality, so while they’ll return two first-team All-Area players in Kasie Ogwulu and Jazzmin Salters, they’ll need to fill the big shoes of Defensive Player of the Year Chidera Ogwulu, a cerebral player who even found ways to contribute offensively as a center back. Lions girls coach Paul Bryan will also enter his ninth season as an FC Frederick coach. He sees the FC Frederick complex, which has a Mount Airy address, as having the ability to attract more solid players around the area where Frederick, Carroll, Montgomery and Howard counties converge. “We can draw [young players from the] eastern part of Frederick County back our way,” said Bryan, who also believes FC Frederick can play a role in funneling money into the local economy by hosting club tournaments. When Urbana boys soccer coach Scott Schartner played high school soccer at Frederick in the mid 90s, partaking in any sort of club soccer activity meant a car trip that lasted between 30 and 60 minutes. And while FC Frederick has helped lop off considerable travel time for parents, Schartner said, participating in tournaments with quality competition still means, in many cases, taking long out-of-state trips that exceed two hours. “With this complex, now it gives FC Frederick the opportunity to host tournaments and bring really good competition — teams from the East Coast — in,” Schartner said. “It makes it easier for the talent that’s being developed in the county to face the competition that’s going to allow their development to continue at an accelerated rate.” Schartner’s Hawks are one of four boys teams — Middletown, Brunswick and Oakdale are the others — that have won at least two state titles over the past seven years. On paper, the defending Class 2A state champion Bears may very well be the team to beat this year, with cornerstone midfielders Riley Daiger and Griffin Vinal, along with a stout defender in Emmanuel Douge, all back. While Oakdale may not necessarily overwhelm opponents offensively, its blue-collar work rate on defense can go a long way as the Bears blanked nine opponents last season. Walkersville, Urbana, TJ and Middletown also figure to be in the mix. The Lions tested Oakdale in the 2A West regional final in a game that ended their deepest postseason run in 14 years. Walkersville graduated two talented scorers in Luke Gaffigan and Fiifi Cann, but it returns three important pieces in Gaffigan’s brother, Eyob, and two valuable starters in sophomore forward Mauricio Gallegos and goalkeeper Thomas Sniezek. The Hawks graduated five pillars — Luke Roberton, Carson Cooley, Will Micol, Fabian Valenzuela-Ruz and Jack Eskay — from last year’s Class 4A state finalist team. Furthermore, Urbana also won’t return two other major contributors who flourished as freshmen. Max Riley, a first-team All-County forward, chose not to play high school soccer while defender Conor Roberton transferred out of the school. So Urbana must build around the all-around skills of Ryan Herman and Nicholas Narvaez, and goalkeeper Parker Sherill — and then hope to be playing its best soccer toward the end of the season. In recent years, the Patriots and Knights have done just that, not allowed slow starts to derail their seasons. TJ’s Carson Grove and Middletown’s Tyler Michael, both returning All-County selections, can set the tone for great effort with their tenacity on the field. So while Frederick County continues to a be a home for strong high school soccer, the club that hones the skills of many of those players finally has a base where it can do an even better job of molding talent. In the past, parents, coaches and players associated with teams found themselves utilizing multiple occasions over the course of a week. “With the older kids, I’d be at Ballenger Creek one night, I’d be at Hood one night or Urbana one night,” Bryan said. “It’s nice where I know I’m going to be for two nights a week or what have you.” Bo Eskay, FC Frederick’s executive director, said he had long hoped his children — Tori, Jackson, William, John Andrew and Isabelle — could have the opportunity to play at such a complex, saying FC Frederick made between 40 and 50 attempts to acquire land. On each of those occasions, something, whether it was a steep price or land that just fell short of meeting the requirements for a soccer complex, got in the way. “It’s really going to hit home when you can go on it and kick a soccer ball on it,” Eskay said. “Right now, you can see it about to happen. “For now, I am excited for young families, that they will have kind of a special place where they can learn the game. Maybe my grandkids will play on there but not my kids.”

Standing near the northern edge of a 152-acre property off Bartholows Road, Bo Eskay pointed to a small piece of land.

Struggling to poke out of the sun-baked dirt, the grass on the land had only grown in small patches.

“That is the kind of stuff we used to practice on,” Eskay said as he stood next to Jeff Sill.

Eskay graduated from Linganore in 1983, and Sill is a 1996 Frederick alum. Both played high school soccer in Frederick County, and they’re now heavily involved in trying to provide what may be the best collection of grass playing fields the county has ever had.

On the property where Eskay and Sill stood, FC Frederick has begun construction for what could be an eight-field soccer complex.

The project was approved by the Frederick County Planning Commission in December, and FC Frederick obtained grading permits in early August.

Since travel soccer clubs Frederick Excel (boys soccer) and Frederick United (girls) combined to form one umbrella organization in 2004, FC Frederick has provided travel soccer in the county for thousands of players. A significant increase in the number of athletes playing year-round soccer, along with the recent availability of turf fields for soccer, has significantly elevated the level of play at the high school level, with area boys and girls teams each winning 11 state titles over the past 15 years.

For Urbana girls coach Keith Bauer, having youth play consistently on high-quality surfaces will only further boost the quality of soccer in the area. Sill, who doubles as FC Frederick’s president and the project manager of the complex, said the first phase of the project will include four Bermuda grass fields, “state-of-the-art irrigation and drainage,” a pavilion and a bathroom facility. For each field, FC Frederick plans on providing approximately 60 parking spaces. Sill said the club is operating on an “aggressive schedule” and that if all goes according to plan, the first phase will be complete by the fall of next year.

If FC Frederick, a nonprofit organization, can take advantage of other revenue streams, three additional phases will add four fields, two bathroom facilities, two pavilions and open park space that can be geared toward hosting various community events.

“Just for these kids to have the opportunity to play on a nice field constantly, it just helps [players’ skills and touch] because you don’t have to worry about a ball taking a bad bounce,” said Bauer, who will enter his second season as Urbana’s head coach. “You’re looking upfield instead of watching the ball and every movement it makes.”

The county’s excellence at the high school level figures to continue this year.

After making the Class 4A North region final last year, Bauer’s Hawks are again expected to be among the county’s best girls teams despite the graduation of Isabelle Eskay, one of the most skilled distributors in county history. Urbana still returns two potent goal-scorers in forwards Brianna Skidmore and Riley Johnson, along with a steady midfielder in Nyah Savage.

Thomas Johnson seems to be in the same boat, having graduated a prolific scorer in Sara Hohn — last year’s Offensive Player of the Year — but returning a versatile midfielder in Elaina Kluttz, a dangerous forward in Mei Homman and starting goalkeeper Alayna Burgamy. In Class 3A, the Patriots usually find themselves butting heads with Linganore, which normally holds its own on the defensive end but must find a way to replace the offensive firepower of the graduated Fiona Rowan.

In Class 2A, Walkersville made a surprising run to the state final, toppling heavily-favored Oakdale in the region final before eventually falling to River Hill in the state championship game. The Lions did it with a defense-first mentality, so while they’ll return two first-team All-Area players in Kasie Ogwulu and Jazzmin Salters, they’ll need to fill the big shoes of Defensive Player of the Year Chidera Ogwulu, a cerebral player who even found ways to contribute offensively as a center back.

Lions girls coach Paul Bryan will also enter his ninth season as an FC Frederick coach. He sees the FC Frederick complex, which has a Mount Airy address, as having the ability to attract more solid players around the area where Frederick, Carroll, Montgomery and Howard counties converge.

“We can draw [young players from the] eastern part of Frederick County back our way,” said Bryan, who also believes FC Frederick can play a role in funneling money into the local economy by hosting club tournaments.

When Urbana boys soccer coach Scott Schartner played high school soccer at Frederick in the mid 90s, partaking in any sort of club soccer activity meant a car trip that lasted between 30 and 60 minutes. And while FC Frederick has helped lop off considerable travel time for parents, Schartner said, participating in tournaments with quality competition still means, in many cases, taking long out-of-state trips that exceed two hours.

“With this complex, now it gives FC Frederick the opportunity to host tournaments and bring really good competition — teams from the East Coast — in,” Schartner said. “It makes it easier for the talent that’s being developed in the county to face the competition that’s going to allow their development to continue at an accelerated rate.”

Schartner’s Hawks are one of four boys teams — Middletown, Brunswick and Oakdale are the others — that have won at least two state titles over the past seven years.

On paper, the defending Class 2A state champion Bears may very well be the team to beat this year, with cornerstone midfielders Riley Daiger and Griffin Vinal, along with a stout defender in Emmanuel Douge, all back. While Oakdale may not necessarily overwhelm opponents offensively, its blue-collar work rate on defense can go a long way as the Bears blanked nine opponents last season.

Walkersville, Urbana, TJ and Middletown also figure to be in the mix.

The Lions tested Oakdale in the 2A West regional final in a game that ended their deepest postseason run in 14 years. Walkersville graduated two talented scorers in Luke Gaffigan and Fiifi Cann, but it returns three important pieces in Gaffigan’s brother, Eyob, and two valuable starters in sophomore forward Mauricio Gallegos and goalkeeper Thomas Sniezek.

The Hawks graduated five pillars — Luke Roberton, Carson Cooley, Will Micol, Fabian Valenzuela-Ruz and Jack Eskay — from last year’s Class 4A state finalist team. Furthermore, Urbana also won’t return two other major contributors who flourished as freshmen. Max Riley, a first-team All-County forward, chose not to play high school soccer while defender Conor Roberton transferred out of the school. So Urbana must build around the all-around skills of Ryan Herman and Nicholas Narvaez, and goalkeeper Parker Sherill — and then hope to be playing its best soccer toward the end of the season.

In recent years, the Patriots and Knights have done just that, not allowed slow starts to derail their seasons. TJ’s Carson Grove and Middletown’s Tyler Michael, both returning All-County selections, can set the tone for great effort with their tenacity on the field.

So while Frederick County continues to a be a home for strong high school soccer, the club that hones the skills of many of those players finally has a base where it can do an even better job of molding talent.

In the past, parents, coaches and players associated with teams found themselves utilizing multiple occasions over the course of a week.

“With the older kids, I’d be at Ballenger Creek one night, I’d be at Hood one night or Urbana one night,” Bryan said. “It’s nice where I know I’m going to be for two nights a week or what have you.”

Bo Eskay, FC Frederick’s executive director, said he had long hoped his children — Tori, Jackson, William, John Andrew and Isabelle — could have the opportunity to play at such a complex, saying FC Frederick made between 40 and 50 attempts to acquire land. On each of those occasions, something, whether it was a steep price or land that just fell short of meeting the requirements for a soccer complex, got in the way.

“It’s really going to hit home when you can go on it and kick a soccer ball on it,” Eskay said. “Right now, you can see it about to happen.

“For now, I am excited for young families, that they will have kind of a special place where they can learn the game. Maybe my grandkids will play on there but not my kids.”

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