By Todd Stanford
The Daily Item
For fans of the Selinsgrove boys soccer program, these are heady days indeed.
For the second straight year the Seals are 9-1 through 10 games. Before 2010, they hadn't started that well since 2001.
With more than two weeks and eight games left in the regular season, the Seals have already guaranteed themselves a spot in the District 4 playoffs. Their leading scorer, junior striker David Aurand, has 10 goals through 10 games. Their senior keeper, Josh Moyer, just picked up his fourth clean sheet of the season in Wednesday's 1-0 win over Mifflinburg.
Oh, and by the way, many of the Seals' top players are still only juniors.
"It's a pretty mature group of kids," Seals coach Chris Lupolt says. "They enjoy being together."
The players not only enjoy being together, but it's obvious that they've been together for a long time. They talk constantly on the pitch, always keeping one another aware of what they're supposed to be doing.
"We talk really well off the field," Aurand says. "So, on the field, it's easy to talk to each other. And we know what each other's thinking. We know where to look for each other."
Aurand has been a revelation this year up top, averaging one goal per game.
"David's hard to stop; he's special up there," Lupolt says. "He's got that acceleration, that burst of speed."
Mifflinburg coach Dan Gehers walked away in awe of Aurand on Wednesday.
"(Aurand's) probably the premier offensive player in the league this year," says Gehers, who also watched Aurand score the winning goal in the two teams' first meeting back in September.
And then there's Moyer, a Daily Item Second Team All-Star at keeper in 2010.
"He's just a strong, physical keeper," Lupolt says. "When he comes off his line, I'm sure the kids on the other team are thinking twice about a collision with him. He makes good choices coming off his line, in the air, and he creates good angles."
But of course, the Seals are much more than just Aurand up top and Moyer in the back. Junior midfielder Kaelan Sullivan is a big, strong player with touch; junior midfielder Alex Moyer is dangerous in the air (Lupolt calls him the region's best player in the air); and junior defender Chuck Peeler can play end line to end line.
"We work together pretty well," Josh Moyer says.
Of course, Selinsgrove has had a dynamite program for years. The Seals have won nine District 4 championships in boys soccer, behind only Middleburg and West Snyder. But in the brief history of the Heartland Athletic Conference, Selinsgrove has taken a back seat to Lewisburg and Midd-West. In fact, after a great regular season last year, the Seals fell to the Mustangs in the District 4 Class AA semifinals. (Midd-West then lost to Lewisburg in the final.)
Watching this current Seals team, one gets the sense that they could break through and win the program's first district title in four years and first league title in nine years.
Of course, they'll have to get past two-time defending champion Lewisburg, the only team to drop a loss on Selinsgrove this year -- a 3-0 defeat last month in Lewisburg.
The Seals will get their rematch this Saturday at home. Win or lose, Selinsgrove could also meet Lewisburg down the line in the district playoffs. The Green Dragons -- winners of five district titles in the last seven years -- are loaded again. But if anyone other than Midd-West -- which is going through a rebuilding year -- is going to challenge them for league and district supremacy this year, it could be the Seals.
"I think the Lewisburg (rematch) has been in the back of (my team's) minds for a while," says Lupolt, whose steps out of league play tonight for a game against defending D-4 A champion East Juniata. "We'll see."
— Sports reporter Todd Stanford covers high school soccer for The Daily Item. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/toddrstanford