Fayette County

City's boys soccer coaches revere Paul Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar soccer Coach Todd Bretz noted that 13 seniors and six starters graduated from the team that made it to the final 16 in last year's state tournament. Other coaches in the area nevertheless consider the Bulldogs the team to beat.
Paul Laurence Dunbar soccer Coach Todd Bretz noted that 13 seniors and six starters graduated from the team that made it to the final 16 in last year's state tournament. Other coaches in the area nevertheless consider the Bulldogs the team to beat.

Coaches don't always agree on things.

They might have vastly different opinions on an official's call. They might have differing ideas about what style of soccer to play.

But this season the city's boys' soccer coaches agree on a few things: That it's been so hot it's been nearly impossible to practice and get a feel for their own teams' abilities in the pre-season.

Oh, and they concur that Paul Laurence Dunbar is the team to beat in this area.

"Everybody's in agreement it's Dunbar," Henry Clay Coach Tim Bernardi said. The Bulldogs are "very strong across the board and deep. They have players that can rotate in at all the positions. They have a great coach. They're a very strong team.

"There's Dunbar, and then parity among the other teams."

Lexington Catholic Coach Greg Hilvers agreed.

"Dunbar's definitely the team to beat," Hilvers said. "That's no media mind game either. They're very strong this year and will be very strong next year, too."

The Bulldogs, who return a little more than half their starters from last season's run to the state's final 16 teams, are No. 4 in the statewide coaches' pre-season poll.

Three-time defending state champion St. Xavier is back in its usual spot atop the pre-season rankings, but the Tigers lost 19 seniors off that dominant group from last year that lost just one game.

Teams from the Louisville area dominate the top 10, including No. 2 Male, No. 3 Trinity, No. 5 Ballard, No. 6 Collegiate and No. 9 Manual.

Other top 10 teams are No. 7 Woodford County, No. 8 East Jessamine and No. 10 South Oldham.

But Dunbar isn't the only team from Lexington that was ranked in the coaches' pre-season poll. Also included was No. 13 Lexington Catholic and No. 22 Henry Clay. Lafayette and Tates Creek, which won the 26th District last season and returns all but four players, also received votes.

And that has Bulldogs Coach Todd Bretz being the lone naysayer among the coaches. He doesn't believe Dunbar is necessarily the team to beat.

"I'm not sure there is a favorite," he said. "It's going to be a lot like last year; it's who all is playing well at that moment."

He noted that his team graduated 13 seniors and six starters, including most of the team's scoring from last year.

"Henry Clay's got a lot of talent. They're very explosive. Tates Creek looked really good. Catholic is always Catholic. They're always going to be good."

Bretz, whose team returns midfielder Zach Byrd, the Kentucky Youth Soccer Association Player of the Year, noted that the senior class in the city is good and well distributed.

"There are good seniors all over, and good young players that are spread throughout the city," he said. "That could make it more difficult for everyone. ... It also could make it a fun year."

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