Mitch Ward.jpeg

Fillmore’s Mitchell Ward (2) gets by Scio’s Brenden Loucks before scoring a goal in an Allegany County Division I boys soccer matchup last season. With Ward, the reigning Big 30 Player of the Year, back this fall, the Eagles again have their sights on a sectional title run

It’s long been the gold standard in Allegany County.

The numbers speak for themselves.

In three decades under Jamie Mullen, the Fillmore boys soccer team has gone an incredible 446-95-42 — which places the longtime coach eighth in Section 5 history in wins and fourth in winning/tie percentage (.837) — with five sectional titles, five trips to the New York State Final Four, one state championship appearance (2000) and 24 league crowns in 30 seasons.

Thirty-one years since initially taking the reins, Mullen’s Eagles are still as good as they’ve ever been. In 2019, Fillmore went 19-2-1 en route to a Section 5 Class D1 title and its most recent trip to the state final four. In last year’s limited campaign, it turned in a perfect regular season (12-0) and earned the No. 1 seed in the D1 playoffs before falling to a loaded Keshequa team (2-0) in the D1 final.

And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that it will be of the same ilk this fall.

And though the Eagles may have an undeniable stranglehold on the league — and their place at the top of the county again in 2021 seems certain — that doesn’t mean the gulf between them and their Division I and II counterparts hasn’t lessened at least slightly.

It has.

Because Fillmore, despite being off to another solid start, is still trying to find its identity,

Mullen noted recently. And the rest of the county, including former pushovers Bolivar-Richburg and Hinsdale, has slowly gotten better.

Oh, the Eagles still have the look of a title-caliber team.

This is an outfit, after all, that has back one of the area’s top players in forward Mitchell Ward, who racked up 27 goals and 10 assists while being named both the Allegany County MVP and Big 30 Player of the Year in 2020. It also returned a pair of key offensive contributors in Zach and Carter Sisson and the bulk of its defense, including sweeper Graham Cahill, stopper Alex Ellsworth and fullback Brent Zubikowski.

Behind that core, Fillmore has positioned itself well nearing the midway point of the year, sitting 7-2 while having outscored its opponents 42-5 in its seven triumphs and fallen only to Arkport/Canaseraga (1-0 in its season-opener on A/C’s only shot of the second half) and Section 6 Class B powerhouse Allegany-Limestone.

(And Ward, still only a junior, has picked up where he left off, netting 16 goals in his first nine games).

These Eagles are far from flawless, however, Mullen acknowledged.

Fillmore has had a tough time replacing county all-star goalkeeper Dylan Valentine, who logged 10 shutouts a year ago, cycling through a handful of keepers through the first month of the season and still not totally settled on that position. And for as good as its defense is, Mullen’s squad hasn’t been as stifling as he thought it might be, as the Eagles have already surrendered more goals in nine games (10) than they did all of last fall (8).

In the one instance where they played a truly exceptional team, Fillmore was handled by the Gators 4-0.

Those are all things they’re attempting to address on the fly. And they seem to be shoring up whatever issues might exist, as the Eagles have won their last five games, four of them in convincing fashion.

“We’re getting there,” Mullen said recently. “Every soccer team has to get (to a point) … you can’t play in your own little bubble, and for whatever reason we’re struggling with that. It’s not selfishness; guys are just kind of playing in their own world. But we’ve improved our connectivity over the last week or so, and that’s really what makes us click.”

He added, “Soccer’s a funny game … it’s a game of failure. It’s a game where you could do everything right for 80 minutes and still come out on the losing end (the A/C game being one such contest). So it’s getting guys to understand that and move past the negatives and that we have to continue to play even when things aren’t going the best. And once we fully get to that point, we should have a pretty good team.”

Fillmore, of course, has already been pretty good, handling county foes Cuba-Rushford (7-0), Scio (7-0) and Bolivar-Richburg (x-x) while also recently cruising past Ellicottville (10-1) and Jasper-Troupsburg (8-1). Its one true league test to this point came from the new Genesee Valley/Belfast co-op, which hung tough in a 2-1 loss.

But even if another league title becomes a foregone conclusion, it could still certainly be pushed down the road.

Belfast, a longtime Division II power, welcomed back leading scorer Matt Weaver, has added reinforcements by teaming up with the Jaguars and is still led by one of the county’s top bosses in longtime coach Mark Sullivan. The Jaguars/Bulldogs, keyed by Weaver’s 13 markers, currently sit 5-3 but figure to be more dangerous down the road once they’ve fully gelled as a combined program.

Bolivar-Richburg returned seven letterwinners from a team that went 7-5-2 and reached the Section 5 Class C2 semifinals last fall after years of toiling at the bottom of the county standings. The Wolverines have seemingly taken another step this season, forging a 5-3-3 mark through Wednesday, with both a win and close loss to GV/Belfast and a scoreless tie with Arkport/Canaseraga.

And then there’s Hinsdale, which has been building its program back up under former HCS all-star Devin Kinney.

After inheriting a young team in 2019, Kinney has the majority of that team back as seniors in 2021, and the Bobcats have begun to come into their own, winning three of its first four games for its best start since introducing boys varsity soccer in 1997.

Hinsdale has a couple of capable goal scorers in Tucker Schwartz (8 markers), Brandon Hayman and Kadyn Cassidy, and even if teams like the Bobcats don’t beat Fillmore this season, they might at least do a better job of letting Mullen’s team know that they’re there.

Fillmore, meanwhile, is hoping that stiffer competition will help its chances of competing for a sectional title, or more, down the road.

“We are facing the toughest schedule in our history,” Mullen maintained, “but it will strengthen our chances in a very deep Class D1 sectional run.”

Following is a capsule look at the Big 30 boys soccer teams in Allegany County:

ANDOVER/WHITESVILLE

Coach: Ryan Conklin (1st year)

League: Allegany County Div. II

2020 record/postseason: 4-6-1; Northstar Christian (L, 4-2, Sec. 5 Class D2 quarterfinals)

Roster: Dylan Acor (sr., D), Cormac Brown (sr., MF), Jayden Dix (sr., D), Lucas Erdmann (sr., D), Carson Frungillo (sr., GK), Evan Green (sr., D), Tyler Hackett (sr., MF), Conner Phillips (sr., A), Ethan Lewis (sr., A), Zach Rizzo (sr., MF), Justin Waters (sr., D), CJ Estep (jr., MF), Will Kent (jr., MF), Ethan McCrae (jr., GK), Aiden Meehan (jr., D), Kaiden Miller (so., MF), Landon Ordway (so., GK), Derek Perkins (so., MF), Austin VanCuren (so., D), Aiden Outman (fr., D)

BOLIVAR-RICHBURG

Coach: Mike Zilker (15th year, 49-130-9)

League: Allegany County Div. I

2020 record/postseason: 7-5-2; Cuba-Rushford (W, 2-1, Sec. 5 Class C2 quarterfinals), Geneseo (L, 2-0, Sec. 5 Class C2 semifinals)

Roster: David Abdo (so., GK), Cayden Gaines (so., D), Reiss Gaines (so., F), Caden Giardini (so., F), Braden Lewis (so., MF), James Margeson (so., MF), Aydin Sisson (so., F), David Baldwin (jr., D), Ryder Easton (jr., MF), Ben Kisel (jr., MF), Evan Pinney (jr., MF), Jaeger Turybury (jr., MF), Ian Unfus (jr., MF), Wyatt Karnuth (sr., MF), Hunter Stuck (sr., D)

From the coach: “This year, we have seven returning varsity players and eight newcomers. I am very excited to see what this team can do. Although we have eight newcomers, they are not new to the sport. These players come from a very talented modified team last year.

“We had a very successful preseason and I am encouraged and excited to see how this team will mesh and function as a unit. We still have areas that need improvement and my hope is that we will hit the ground running and continue to sharpen our skills and be prepared for what comes our way.”

CUBA-RUSHFORD

Coach: Nick Perillo (6th year, 34-36-7)

League: Allegany County Div. I

2020 record/postseason: 4-6-2; Red Creek (W, 3-1, Sec. 5 Class C2 first round), Bolivar-Richburg (L, 2-1, Sec. 5 Class C2 quarterfinals)

Roster: Jarrett Campbell (sr., GK), Austin Clement (sr., MF), Nate Cole (sr., A), Brayden Lavery (sr., D), Logan Lewis (sr., MF), Austin Pinney (sr., MF), Hunter Rix (sr., MF), Chandler Wirth (sr., MF), Williams Adams (jr., MF), Jayson Armstrong (jr., MF), Preston Bilotta (jr., MF), Lucas Boutwell (jr., MF), Maddox Keller (jr., D), Jacob Smith (jr., MF), Kane Adams (so., GK), Kaden Bell (so., D), Tanner Lewis (so., MF), Marshall Preen (so., D), Sebastian Saulter (so., MF), Braedon Wight (so., A)

FILLMORE

Coach: Jamie Mullen (32nd year, 446-95-42)

League: Allegany County Div. I

2020 record/postseason: 14-1; Genesee Valley (W, 3-0, Sec. 5 Class D1 quarterfinals), Arkport/Canaseraga (W, 3-0, Sec. 5 Class D1 semifinals), Keshequa (L, 2-0, Sec. 5 Class D1 championship

Roster: Graham Cahill (sr., SW), Alex Ellsworth (sr., Stop), Lucas Hersee (sr., D), Matt Majoris (sr., D), Michael McCumiskey (sr., MF), Noorideen Musaid-Omar (sr., A), Carter Sisson (sr., MF), Luke Colombo (jr., GK), Zach Sisson (jr., A), Aiden Wagner (jr., MF), Mitchell Ward (jr., A), Damon Wood (jr., MF), Brent Zubikowski (jr., D), Jack Cool (so., MF), Layton Sanasith (so., MF), Eben Schilke (so., MF), Noah Strickland (so., D), Isaiah Sisson (fr., MF)

From the coach: Despite (an opening night shutout loss to) Arkport/Canaseraga, the offense should produce plenty of goals and the defense could set a record for least goals allowed in Fillmore history with its toughness and experience.

“We are facing the toughest schedule in our history, with regional superpowers like Allegany-Limestone, A/C and Jasper-Troupsburg on our schedule, but it will strengthen our chances in a very deep Class D1 sectional run.”

FRIENDSHIP

Coach: Brad Gertis (7th year, 36-76-2)

League: Allegany County Div. II

2020 record/postseason: 1-11; Jasper-Troupsburg (L, 3-0, Sec. 5 Class D2 quarterfinal)

Roster: Joey Bednez (sr., D), Jacob Golden (sr., D), Cameron Blouvet (jr., D), Hunter Hill (jr., D), Cooper Hosley (jr., D), Taylor Moore (jr., A), Devon Ross (jr., MF), Conner Otero (so., A), James Scranton (so., MF), Conner Blouvet (MF), Jerome Harmon (A)

GENESEE VALLEY/BELFAST

Coach: Mark Sullivan (13th year, Belfast/GV, 133-56-8)

League: Allegany County Div. I

2020 record/postseason: Belfast: 9-4; Northstar Christian (W, 5-3, Sec. 5 Class D2 semifinals), Jasper-Troupsburg (L, 1-0, Sec. 5 Class D2 championship); Genesee Valley: 4-6-2; Fillmore (L, 3-0, Sec. 5 Class D1 quarterfinals)

Roster: Jason Becker (sr., D), Jacob Buchholz (sr., D), Justin Hill (sr., MF), Max Miller (sr., D), Trent Scott (sr., MF), Gavin Szalay (sr., D), Morgan Torrey (sr., MF), Joseph Ward (sr., MF), Matt Weaver (sr., A), Zach Bourne (jr., A), Daemon Cobb (jr. D), Noah Cord (jr., GK), Connor Hull (jr., D), Stiven Lopez (jr., A), Killian McKnight (jr., D), Garrett Miller (jr., D), Thai Norasethaporn (jr., D), Luke Snyder (jr., A), Connor Stork (jr., D), Carter Stout (jr., D), Canaan Sullivan (jr., D), Matt Cater (so., D), Owen Heaney (so., D), Sean Mahon (so., GK), Chris Weaver (so., A), Evan Turybury (fr., A)

From the coach: “The team has been working very hard. Having a merged team has taken all of us a little time learning formations and expectations. I am looking forward to seeing how this team responds throughout the season. We should be competitive this fall.”

HINSDALE

Coach: Devin Kinney (3rd year, 6-19-2)

League: Allegany County Div. II

2020 record/postseason: 1-6-2; (none)

Roster: Sam Cashimere (sr., D), Ethan Cashimere (sr., GK), Parker Cummins (sr., D), Brandon Hayman (sr., A), Isaac Howell (sr., MF), Tucker Schwartz (sr., A), Damion Brown (jr., A), Kadyn Cassidy (jr., A), Noah Easterly (jr., A), Steven Hayman (jr., A), Xander Pascucci (jr., MF), Bradley Bergstrom (so., A), Jacob Elliott (so., MF), Caden Miller (so., MF), Henry Schwartz (so., MF), Eric Showers (so., A), Ethan Chapman (fr., A), Braedyn Kenjockety (fr., A), Tyler Richards (fr., A), Robert Childs (MF)

HOUGHTON

Coach: Jeff Prentice (4th year, 24-14-3)

League: Allegany County Div. II

2020 record/postseason: 4-5; (none)

Roster: Malachi DeGolyer (sr., D), Chris Habecker (sr., GK), Hugo Hnang (sr., A), Anna Huizenga (sr., MF), Duy Le (sr., MF), Warren Torraca (sr., D), Ernie Lipscomb (jr., MF), Levi Martino (jr., D), James Adenuga (so., D), Wes Davidson (so., MF), Pauline Haensel (so., MF), Jack Prentice (fr., MF), Henry Sardina (so., A), Alonzo Sopelana (jr. MF), Alejandro Fraile (so., MF), Jon Habecker (fr., MF)

From the coach: “We are excited about the 2021 season. We return eight starters and added a lot of new depth. Five of those returning starters are seniors, so we expect them to lead the way for the rest of the team. That group of seniors is led by Chris Habecker, a starting goalie for four seasons now and a two-time All-County selection. We also return our two leading scorers in Duy Le and Henry Sardina.

“I can see this team struggling a little in the beginning, but if healthy, I could see us being really tough by sectional time.”

SCIO

Coach: Dillon McFall (3rd year, 19-9-4)

League: Allegany County Div. II

2020 record/postseason: 2-6-4; (none)

Roster: Lazar Bulajic (sr., A), Corey Field (sr., MF), Ashton Jennings (sr., MF), Jude Marion (sr., MF), Carter Silsby (sr., D), Jaxson Warboys (sr., D), Will Broach (jr., A), White Frankie (jr., Stop), Chase Kinnicutt (jr., D), Brendan Loucks (jr., MF), Maximus Morris (jr., MF), Jordan White (jr., A), Landon Arnold (so., GK), Tyler Nickerson (so., A), Gavin Sherwood (so., MF), Greg Wesche (so., MF), Ethan Davenport (A)

WELLSVILLE

Coach: Matt Buckley (3rd year, 10-13-4)

League: Independent

2020 record/postseason: 6-3-1; Penn Yan (L, 4-1, Sec. 5 Class B2 quarterfinals)

Roster: Matthew Bittel (sr., D), Dylan Day (sr., D), Keaton Sharpe (sr., D), Asher Billings (jr., MF), Quentin Case (jr., D), Cody Costello (jr., MF), Gavan Dickerson (jr., D), Logan Dunbar (jr., GK), Kavan O’Grady (jr., MF), Aidan Riley (jr., A), Ethan Bailey (so., A), Cooper Brockway (so., A), Aiden Cowburn (fr., MF), Lucius Griggs (fr., D), Tyler Vogel (fr., MF)

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