Cypress Bay reclaimed its place among the state’s best last season, winning its fourth championship in the past five seasons.
The Lightning found itself with a different road map following the FHSAA’s realignment of boys’ soccer teams.
With two key starters back, including All-Broward senior midfielder Jake Fuhrman, Cypress Bay figures to be the county’s top candidate to bring home a state title again this season.
The Lightning moved into an eight-team district that includes West Broward, Western and Taravella.
Its region now includes the top large schools from Miami-Dade County, including much improved Varela, Columbus and Coral Gables.
District 12-5A just above Cypress Bay is one of the toughest in the state.
Deerfield Beach, which graduated two-time Miami Herald Broward Player of the Year Romiliare Ambrose, still has a strong squad led by Bucks football and soccer standout defender Jefferson Souza.
The Bucks made it to the regionals for the fourth consecutive season and won a first-round game for the first time during that span. Deerfield Beach, however, lost in the semifinals to Boca Raton — a team now residing in the same district as the Bucks and other Broward contenders such as Douglas and Monarch.
▪ One of Cypress Bay’s biggest rivals, St. Thomas Aquinas, dropped to Class 4A, where it will contend with a whole new set of obstacles as it tries to reach the state tournament for the first time since winning the school’s fifth championship in 2011.
Coach John Walsh’s team will depend on seniors Gianni Serio, Will Lore and Carlos Aguerrevere as the Raiders will continue to play their ball-control style.
▪ American Heritage and Pines Charter will vie for supremacy in Class 3A.
Heritage dropped a tough 2-1 regional semifinal match last season to Doral Academy and returns a solid core of players led by senior defender Nikita Maximov.
▪ Pines Charter has one of the county’s most potent attacks, led by forward Youseff Abougendia.
▪ North Broward Prep, a regional quarterfinalist last season, is rebuilding according to coach Diego Cardona. But the Eagles have one of the county’s top returning goalkeepers in senior Bryan Matamoros, which should help while the younger players develop.
▪ Cardinal Gibbons should be a strong defensive team that will contend among Broward’s top small schools as well.
▪ Westminster Academy and Sagemont should continue to be among the top Broward teams in Class 1A.
Boys’ soccer season overview
Monday: Season began.
Dec. 14-26: Holiday tournaments
Jan. 12-13, 15: GMAC championship
Jan. 18-23: Districts
Jan. 28: Regional quarterfinals
Feb. 2: Regional semifinals
Feb. 5: Regional finals
Feb. 10-13: State final four at Eastern Florida State College in Melbourne
DEFENDING STATE CHAMPIONS
Class 5A: Cypress Bay; 4A: Tallahassee Chiles; 3A: Choctawatchee; 2A: Gulliver Prep; 1A: Maitland Orangewood Christian.
1. Cypress Bay
2. St. Thomas Aquinas
3. Deerfield Beach
4. Pines Charter
5. American Heritage
8. Archbishop McCarthy
9. North Broward Prep
10. Cardinal Gibbons
On the rise: Flanagan, Fort Lauderdale, Pine Crest, Coral Springs.
TOP RETURNING PLAYERS
F Youseff Abougendia, Pines Charter, Sr.
F Tobias Mueller, Cardinal Gibbons, Sr.
F Sofien Mebrek, South Broward, Sr.
F James Scasserra, Westminster Academy, Sr.
M Jake Fuhrman, Cypress Bay, Sr.
M Gianni Serio, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
M DJameslie Milord, Coral Springs, Sr.
M Kevian Ferraz, Monarch, Jr.
D Caleb Bien-Aime, Highlands Christian, Sr.
D Will Lore, St. Thomas Aquinas, Sr.
D Armando Marimon, Cardinal Gibbons, Sr.
D Nikita Maximov, American Heritage, Sr.
D Jefferson Souza, Deerfield Beach, Sr.
GK Bryan Matamoros, North Broward Prep, Sr.
▪ Team-by-team capsules: www.miamiherald.com/high-schools
PIPER (Coach Fernando Ramirez, 8th year at Piper, 12th overall). Last year: 10-5-5. Top players: M Bruno Mayorga, So.; M Kurt Duval, Sr.; M Cristiana Bonilla, Jr.; M Kennley Pineros, So.
MCARTHUR (Coach Denys Valenzuela, 3rd year). Last year: 3-12-2. Top players: D Jorge Rojas, Sr.; M-F Dieter Salazar, Sr.; D Christofer Laskaratos, Sr.; M Jiro Chavez, Sr.; M Kenneth Soto, Jr.; GK Joshua Luna, Jr.
TARAVELLA (Coaches Todd Schoonover/Dan Calleja, 1st year). Last year: 5-7-4.
CORAL SPRINGS (Coach Robert Gofus, 3rd year at CS, 11th overall). Last year: 11-9-1. Top players: M DJameslie Milord, Sr.; F Jose Castillo, Jr.; CB Harrison Netburn, So.; F Drew Brunton, So.; M Marcello Cruz, So.
MONARCH (Coach Stephen Lorenc, 14th year at MON, 30th overall, 414-163-73). Last year: 13-8-3 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: M Kevian Ferraz, Jr.; M-D Matheus Mendes, Jr.; M Santiago Latorre, Jr.; F Shaquille Coombs, Sr.; F Issac Bertho, Sr.; D Fernando Nava, Sr.
PLANTATION (Coach Ebenezer Akinola, 4th year). Last year: N/A. Top players: D James Fochive, Sr.; M Mauro Martinez, Jr.; M Matthew Rosas, So.; D Fermin Pena, Sr.
EVERGLADES (Coach Boomer Bray, 3rd year at Ever, 22nd overall). Last year: 9-5-3. Top players: M Mateo Cuesta, So.; M Alex Palacios, So.; D David Gonzalez, Sr.; GK-M Hernan Beltran, Sr.; M Jean Casas, Fr.; GK Kenan Mora, Sr.
ST. THOMAS AQUINAS (Coach John Walsh). Last year: 13-8-7 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: M Gianni Serio, Sr.; D Will Lore, Sr.; M-D Carlos Aguerrevere, Sr.; M Michael Luke, Jr.; F-M Brandon Golding, Jr.; M Trevor Walsh, Jr.
AMERICAN HERITAGE (Coach Todd Goodman, 2nd year, 17-3-3). Last year: 17-3-3 (Regional semifinalist). Top players: D Nikita Maximov, Sr.; F John Mongstou, Sr.; F Landon Lupo, Jr.; D Jack Tubio, Sr.; M Jerry Cabrera, Jr.; M Joseph Vinson, So.
CARDINAL GIBBONS (Coach Rafael Ferreiro, 11th year, 117-65-33). Last year: 6-8-6. Top players: D Armando Marimon, Sr.; M Enrique Desanctis, Jr.; F Tobias Mueller, Sr.; M Francisco Perdomo, Sr.; M Caleb Fiedler, Sr.; D Tarek Raad, Sr.
NSU UNIVERSITY SCHOOL (Coach Thiago Oliveira). Last year: N/A. Top players: D Javan Bullock, Sr.; F Cory Roberts, Sr.; M Gabriel Frydman, So.; M Jared Plotka, So.; F Liam Borbély, Fr.; GK Ricky Kiblisky, So.
NORTH BROWARD PREP (Coach Diego Cardona, 13th year). Last year: 12-5-6 (Regional quarterfinalist). Top players: GK Bryan Matamoros, Sr.; Arshum Kasari, Sr.; Daniel Espinosa, So.; Eddi Reina, Jr.; Francesco Gallo, Sr.; Oliver Vidoni, Sr.
NOTE: Schools not listed did not return their outlook forms to The Miami Herald.