Hawks in midst of youth movement

Woodland sophomore James Yacavone makes a pass during practice Tuesday afternoon in Beacon Falls. The Hawks will field a young squad this year, but aren’t taking their sights off of the NVL and state tournaments. –KYLE BRENNAN

Woodland sophomore James Yacavone makes a pass during practice Tuesday afternoon in Beacon Falls. The Hawks will field a young squad this year, but aren’t taking their sights off of the NVL and state tournaments. –KYLE BRENNAN

BEACON FALLS — Longtime Woodland boys soccer coach Tony Moutinho isn’t making any bones about his team’s prospects for this fall, which follows a pair of the most talented classes in program history.

“We go back to the drawing board and start from the beginning — from scratch,” Moutinho said. “It’s a young team with young kids.”

The Hawks’ 2011 Naugatuck Valley League championship team is now a distant memory, as is the squad that reached the Class M state tournament last year. Both teams were veteran groups with explosive scoring ability. These Hawks are simply unproven, but they see the program’s success over the last few seasons.

“It helps that they can see it can be done,” Moutinho said. “We’ve done it before, so why can’t we do it again? If they put in some hard work, I think they can achieve that next year.”

Woodland has only three seniors on its roster, including captain Adam Macdonald. The Hawks also have a pair of junior captains, Sam Merriman and Dan Leclerc. Moutinho said he expects Merriman, who started last season and saw time during the NVL championship season, to be the team’s best player as soon as he returns from a back injury.

Sophomore James Yacavone could also be among the team’s leading scorers. The squad graduated last year’s three leading scorers in Vigan Pacuku, Nick LaPerriere and Michael Costa.

“They have a lot of potential,” Moutinho said.

Among the many holes is the one between the pipes, where Moutinho is grooming freshman AJ Oliveira to be the Hawks’ next goalkeeper. Moutinho said Oliveira is undersized but has good instincts and should develop into a solid player.

“We have a goalie who, once he puts on a few inches, could turn into one of the best in the league,” Moutinho said of Oliveira. “He’s our future and he could start this year. Toward the end of the season we’ll know exactly where we are with him.”

Woodland junior captain Dan Leclerc makes a pass during practice Tuesday afternoon in Beacon Falls. –KYLE BRENNAN

Woodland junior captain Dan Leclerc makes a pass during practice Tuesday afternoon in Beacon Falls. –KYLE BRENNAN

Moutinho said even though the team is young and inexperienced, the Hawks will not mail it in this season. Instead, he thinks the team has the potential to make the eight-team NVL tournament field and even to sneak into the Class M state tournament picture.

“We’ll work toward next year, but we’re not going to give up on this season,” Moutinho said. “I tell the kids, ‘On any given day we can beat anybody.’ This year we still hope to make the bottom of the NVL tournament and hopefully make states, even if we’re the last team in.”

Woodland opens this season Sept. 10 at Crosby before hosting Naugatuck on Sept. 12. The Hawks will host a nonconference match Sept. 16 against Oxford.