Around the time preseason practice started, the Southold High School boys soccer coach, Andrew Sadowski, had his players write down their position preferences. Peter Fouchet, a senior who had played primarily as a central defensive midfielder since he was pulled up to the varsity team as a freshman for the playoffs, jotted down the words “center midfield.” Then, in parentheses, he added “center attacking midfield.”
Fouchet said, “I wanted him to know that I really would like to step forward, and he respected that.”
Not only did Fouchet step forward, but he stepped up, in a big way. Through 13 games Fouchet has bagged a team-leading 16 goals to go with four assists.
He is one reason why the First Settlers (10-2-1, 8-0 in Suffolk County League VIII) have already nailed down the league championship, with eyes on possible bigger prizes down the road. They have outscored teams, 46-15, and with the aid of their new starting goalkeeper, Dylan Clausen, have posted five shutouts.
“I like how we’re mainly just playing as a unit,” senior midfielder Noah Mina said. “Nobody is trying to do too much with the ball. Nobody’s playing one-on-one soccer.”
But, wait a minute. Wasn’t this supposed to be a rebuilding year for Southold?
“It’s a funny thing,” Mina said. “Last year, after we lost our seniors, I mean, we were a little worried. We lost some key guys and we thought it was kind of going to be like a solid year, but we never really thought that we were going to be this good.”
Not that Southold’s performance in the Town of Brookhaven Summer League gave a hint of what was to come. The First Settlers went 2-8 in the summer league, finishing last among the 11 small schools teams.
“During summer league, chemistry wasn’t there,” Mina said. “You could feel it. … We just weren’t playing together. Somehow, once the [school] season started off, it clicked.”
Players said the summer league helped, though. “It allowed us to kind of bond as a team and get to know each other a little better,” said Fouchet.
The only two losses on Southold’s ledger this fall have been in non-league games against Sayville, 6-2, and Mount Sinai, 1-0.
Fouchet said he is relishing his new attacking role, something he has done for club teams when he was younger.
“I enjoy it,” he said. “It’s definitely a great feeling when you finish the goal. It’s just a relief and you know that you helped the team do better. It’s really not about me, though. I’m just happy to see our team progressing as a team and winning games. Everything I do I do to try to better the team, not myself.”
Others have taken notice of Fouchet’s play.
“He’s phenomenal right now,” said Clausen.
Sadowski said, “He has taken his team on his back and wants to score.”
Joey Worysz and Walker Sutton have also added oompf to the attack.
And then there has been the fine play of Clausen in goal. The junior got his initial taste of varsity soccer early last season when he filled in for the injured John Charles Funke for a couple of games.
“He’s crazy in goal,” Fouchet said of Clausen. “It’s what we need.”
Fearless and athletic, Clausen has been a strong presence behind a defense that includes players like Alex Lincoln, Aidan Walker and Josh Kettenbeil.
“Dylan’s playing great,” Mina said. “We love Dylan in goal. I’ve played on teams where I’ve not really [been] comfortable with our goalkeeper, and I can’t really say that for this team. I’m very comfortable with our goalie.”
The First Settlers, the defending Long Island Class C champions, came within a penalty-kick tiebreaker of reaching the New York State semifinals last year. Their aim is to make it to Middletown High School for the state semifinals and final, which will be played on Nov. 14 and 15.
That wouldn’t be a bad ending for a rebuilding year.
Photo Caption: Peter Fouchet has responded to his move forward as an attacking midfielder with 16 goals and four assists for Southold. (Credit: Daniel De Mato)