FREEDOM PLAINS – There ain’t no mountain high enough…
(You can sing the tune if you’d like, but the lyrics do deviate here.)
… to keep members of Arlington High School’s boys soccer team from getting together.
Fernando Taborga and Eric Layden live toward the foot of Depot Hill in Beekman, while teammates Will Kautsky, Jimmy Martin and twins Dillon and Peter Petrillo reside at the very top of the precipitous peak.
“They’re all the way up,” Taborga said. He wasn’t quoting a French Montana line, but referring to the mile-and-a-half slope to reach the summit. “When I drive up to see those guys, my ears always pop.”
There are some aspects akin to that of a typical suburban setting up there. Several of the houses have basketball hoops in the driveway, and the boys often gather to play baseball in their backyards.
But life is a little different on the mountain. The area is a bit remote, with few homes; it snows more heavily there and the fellows sometimes spot bears in the neighborhood.
Peter Petrillo joked about wanting to wrestle a bear, and Dillon said that winter sledding is the hobby of choice up there.
“Yeah,” Martin interjected, “it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere.”
Still, that community has managed to produce a slew of quality soccer players. Five of the “Mountain Boys,” as they call themselves, are members of Arlington’s varsity “A” team and Dillon Petrillo is contending for a promotion from the “B” squad this season.
All were back on the field Monday, the first official day of practice for Section 1’s non-football teams. Practices for the football teams, and all teams in Section 9, began on Aug. 15.
Layden moved to Beekman from Connecticut when he was 6 and immediately befriended Taborga. The downhill duo soon became close with Martin, who lives next door to the Petrillos, who live across the street from Kautsky. And so began the chain.
“It didn’t take long for us to feel like brothers,” said Layden, a midfielder. “We’ve been close and been there for each other since back then.”
That proximity, and a shared interest in this sport, led to them all playing for the Beekman youth soccer club. Their skills developed and their bonds grew stronger at each level, and their friendships have endured as they enter their senior year.
On the field, Taborga said, the pals are able to easily read each other’s body language, see the field in similar ways and react accordingly, simultaneously.
“When you get a core group of guys that have played together since they were (small kids), and they’ve stayed together and worked their way through, it makes us better,” Admirals coach Craig Sanborn said. “That kind of camaraderie is a huge benefit.”
As is the mountain itself, actually. The group often works out together and the hills provide a challenging terrain.
“We train differently up there,” Kautsky said. “There’s a lot of steep parts and uneven surfaces that make you really put out effort to get up, which is almost ideal for running.”
Arlington (19-1-1) had a sparkling season last year, storming through the regular season and capturing the Section 1 Class AA title before being stunned in penalty kicks in the regional final. The Admirals thoroughly outplayed Ithaca in that game, but couldn’t manage a goal. So there is a pervading belief that, after a missed opportunity, this can be the season of redemption. But with 17 of their players having graduated in the 2016 class, it’s also a rebuilding year.
There might be peaks and valleys, which is to be expected, but the team hopes to eventually reach a consistent plateau. (Pardon the topographic puns.)
“We do have a lot of depth and we’re counting on the returning players and the new kids to step up,” said Sanborn, who had 128 players at tryouts on Monday, the first day of practice. “We’re relying on some guys to come up big.”
The “Mountain Boys” among them. Kautsky, who earned Journal All-Star honors last year, is an aggressive center back who will be asked to anchor the defense. Martin, a tall and athletic goalkeeper, likely will replace former standout Ryan Wilson (who tweeted on Monday to wish his former teammates good luck).
Peter Petrillo “brings a lot of speed,” Sanborn said, and he could potentially be an elite scorer at forward. Layden, with his knowledge and footwork, will likely control the midfield with Taborga and Tristan Battistoni.
Dillon Petrillo, who did well last season on the varsity “B” team, said it would “mean the world to me” to earn a spot on the “A” team and join his buddies.
“We’ve got a good team coming in,” Layden said. “There’s not a doubt in my mind that we can go far.”
All the way up, perhaps.
Stephen Haynes: email@example.com, 845-437-4826, Twitter: @StephenHaynes4
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