Charger soccer earns first statewide ranking

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Team enters post-season 25th

By Mike Farner

MOUNT WASHINGTON - For the first time in the program’s history, the Bullitt East Chargers were ranked last week among the top-25 teams in the state coaches’ poll.

That goes hand-in-hand with the Chargers posting a 13-3-2 record and facing three teams that have been ranked in the coaches’ poll at some time this season. The Chargers recently beat Waggener 1-0 and they tied perennial district kingpin Bethlehem 1-1 at home back on Sept. 10. There was also a 2-0 loss to Elizabethtown.

Being ranked is all good for longtime Bullitt East head coach Mike Brangers, but he is well aware that the ranking will carry no weight next week when the Chargers enter Ninth District play as the number three seed behind Bethlehem and Nelson County.

“It’s not something we said out loud,” Brangers said earlier this week of being ranked as a pre-season goal. “It is good for publicity. I thought it would come earlier. We had tied Bethlehem and I thought we deserved it.

“I was surprised and pleased when I saw it,” the veteran coach said of the team in the 25th spot.

Brangers votes himself most weeks in the state coaches’ poll.

This has been another banner season for the Chargers and with a team made up exclusively of seniors and juniors the success has not been unexpected. The squad has 12 seniors and four juniors and those players pretty much make up the varsity team.

The Chargers have been shut out in two of their losses this season, to Fifth Region powers North Hardin and Elizabethtown, but otherwise they have had no trouble scoring goals. Bullitt East has scored 74 times this season which is 25 more goals than any of the other dozen teams in the region. They have allowed just 18 goals.

Bullitt East is tied for first in the state in goals scored and the red and goal are 11th in the state at 4.1 goals a game. The squad is fifth in the state in winning margin at 3.1 goals a contest.

Leading the offense is senior Rob Daugherty who has played in 15 of the team’s 18 games and has scored 18 goals. At 1.2 goals a game, Daugherty ranks 15th this season in the state in scoring. The Chargers have also gotten 12 goals from senior Ryan Linton and ten scores from senior Noah Francke.

The Chargers also pass the ball well as they have one of the state’s top assist as senior Tyler Kramer has ten assists. Both Daugherty and Francke have five assists.

Against the better teams on their schedule, the Chargers have been a strong defensive team also. Except for the early season 4-0 loss to North Hardin, Bullitt East has not given up more than two goals in any game led by senior goalie Caleb Noe.

Noe, who is between the pipes for the third straight season, has started 16 of the team’s 18 games and has recorded seven shut-outs, good for fourth in the state this season. Only ten teams in Kentucky have given up fewer goals than the Chargers.

Noe is pulling double-duty this fall as he is also kicking for the Bullitt East football team. He stayed behind for a football game when the Chargers traveled to Glasgow for the Trojan Classic. He missed the first game, but then played in the next three as the red and gold won that event.

Fellow senior Andrew Hoben filled in for Noe in that first game and also played in goal in the second game against Bullitt Central and did not allow a goal in either game.

Bullitt East does have a pair of foreign exchange students playing this season, but unlike some of the past foreign students, the team’s play does not revolve around either Felipe Barreto or Andreas Kustaas. Those players can score and have good skills, but they don’t dominate the action.

The Chargers have had no trouble with their county foes this season, going 4-0 without giving up a goal. The red and gold beat North Bullitt 6-0 in each of the two meetings and they have beaten Bullitt Central 9-0 and 8-0.

The second meeting with North Bullitt was two weeks ago with the Chargers prevailing at home. Bullitt East got two goals each from Francke and Ryan Linton in that win as well as single goals from Brandon Linton and Kustaas. Noe was the goalie of record as he played all but about ten minutes of the contest.

The two rivals will meet again on Sunday in the first-round of the Ninth District Tournament which Bullitt East is hosting. All the first-round games will be played on the school’s soccer field before the semi-finals and final are played on the football field.

Once more, the Chargers’ season will probably come down to a showdown with Nelson County. The two squads have met in the semi-finals in each of the past three tournaments. Bullitt East won in 2006 and 2007 while Nelson County beat the Chargers in 2008.

Nelson County beat Bullitt East 2-1 back on Sept. 22, the last loss for the Chargers this season, but that game was cut short by rain.

“They have one really good player who is a Division I kid,” Brangers said of Nelson County senior Ryan Stallings. “We have to defend him and not foul. That’s what happened in the other game (Nelson County scored on a penalty kick and a free kick). We’ll have to defend him with two players.

“Caleb will have to have a good game,” Brangers added. “They will put a lot of shots on goal. We will be able to score against them. I’m not worried about that.”

Bullitt East will take on North Bullitt at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday and then would face Nelson County at 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday on the football field.

The championship game will be played at 7 p.m. next Thursday and it would be a shock if Bethlehem was not one of the teams playing that night. Bullitt East has twice lost to Bethlehem in the district final and the Chargers have never won a district title.

The winner of the Ninth District Tournament will host the Fifth Region Tournament the following week.