PREBLE COUNTY — The high school boys soccer season began earlier this week with each coach optimistic about the upcoming season.
Eaton returns several starters
When Matt Money took over the boys’ soccer program four years ago it was at a point where the team wasn’t sure how to win.
Now, according to Money, the team is confident and ready to challenge for a league title.
The Eagles finished 9-6-2 overall last year and 6-4-2 in the Southwestern Buckeye League Southwestern Division.
“Our goal every year is to win the league,” Eaton coach Matt Money said. “When I took over the program four years ago they didn’t know how to win. They worked hard, but they didn’t know how to win. Then all of a sudden we started winning two years ago and three years ago and now these guys, at least the older guys, know we can compete and they believe that.”
And the team has a majority of its players back.
Eaton returns seven seniors who all started last season. In all, the team has nine seniors.
James Howard will play up front and as an attacking midfielder.
“James will probably get man-marked by certain teams. We’ll try and figure out how to get him the ball,” Money said. “He’s just going to have to work hard.”
Chris Hudgel moves from goalie and will be an additional scoring threat, according to Money.
“We’re going to put Chris on the field. He can hit a shot maybe harder than anybody on the team. We’re hoping he gets some chances. He’s a dangerous player. There’s no doubt about it.”
John Altom will play midfield and goalie.
“He plays well as a holding mid and distributes the ball well,” Money said.
Owen Baumann will anchor the defense.
“He is a dominate player as a right back and he gets forward. He’s the fist guy on the team and you’re going to see some assists and goals out of him coming out of the back,” Money said. “He’s just non-stop. We’re looking forward to good things out of him.”
Brayden Beachler is a two-year starter at center back.
“He’s really grown as a player,” Money said. “He’s very unselfish. He knows unless he’s ticking me off he’s going to play 80 minutes. Last year, he didn’t come out once.”
Tyler Earley will also be in the back on defense.
“He is a runner,” Money said. “He’s just athletic and runs, runs, runs.”
Nathan Gard will play forward.
“He is the quarterback. He does some many things that you are never going to see in the score book,” Money said. “He is a very technical player. He’s a leader. He distributes the ball so very well. Nate’s important to us.”
The Eagles will be missing all-league performer Tucker Wilt, who is out with an injury.
Sophomore Ethen Burrell will be in goal this year. Fellow sophomores Caleb Caplinger and Evan Tolliver will also be counted on.
Despite having nine seniors and seven starters back, the Eagles suffer from lack of numbers in the overall program. The team has no juniors, 10 sophomores and there is only one freshman on the roster.
“Our numbers aren’t great. So we’re just trying make sure we’ve got everything covered,” Money said. “In our situation we count on everybody. Now were in a position since we don’t have a JV, if your name’s called you’re expected come out and make an impact. I don’t understand why our numbers are so down because we’ve been successful these last two years.”
Money said this year’s squad has been fun to coach thus far.
“The team really gets along,” he said. “It’s fun to coach them. They work hard and they want to do well. They want to help their brother. We’re shooting for the stars just like every year.”
Soccer returns to North
After not fielding a team in 2017, Tri-County North’s boys program returns to the pitch this season under first-year coach and former Panther Dylan Hemmerich.
The Panthers will field a team with little or no varsity experience and will feature 10 freshmen on the roster.
Hemmerich said he will be relying on Preston Lairson, Collin Whipp, Jarod Isaacs to lead the team. All three are seniors.
Lairson will see time at center defender. Whipp will play forward and Isaacs, also a team captain, will play outside midfield
“With 13 players who have never played in a high school soccer game we have quite a few newcomers. Nathan Lefeld (sophomore), Aaron Foster (sophomore), Jackson Isaacs (freshman), and Hunter Harry (freshman) all stand out,” Hemmerich said. “With no high school experience they are extremely talented. The future looks good for Tri- County North for the first time in a long time with these four at the stepping up. All the freshmen show promise and have learned quickly to fill the roles needed on the team to make it work.”
Only five team field a team in the Cross County Conference.
“With only four other teams in the conference I think our chances are wide open,” Hemmerich said. “Of course our lack of experience hurts us, but I want to be at the higher end of the group. I think this is a possible goal to be third or better.”
Hemmerich is looking for his team to finish about .500
“Even is what we keep hearing people say but I want to be better than that,” he said. “If we went even a game over even this year than the future looks bright for Tri- County North Soccer.”
He noted the senior leadership will play a pivotal role this season.
“The leadership of captains Preston Lairson, Jarod Isaacs and Nathan Lefeld, will be enough to push us over the top,” Hemmerich said. “Not everyone is playing the position they want or have ever played before but we have learned our roles and played them well. Lane Kerby, looks to bring a bright light to the goalkeeper position for the next few years to come. This season will be both interesting and fun for the team this year.”
South looking for younger players to step up
Twin Valley South will be looking to improve on its 7-7-3 record from last season.
Returning starters include:
Center back Logan Cook is a 4-year varsity letterman.
Outside midfielder Jake Byrne is a 3-year varsity letterman and most improved from the team last season.
Center midfielder Brayden Marker scored nine goals during his freshman season.
Outside midfielder Aaron Clark is a three-year letterman and has received varsity time since his freshman season.
Outside midfielder Christopher Keener also returns.
Other key players returning include sweeper Aidan London and center defensive midfielder Logan Davis.
William Jerdon (goalie) is one of the new additions to the team who expected to make an impact.
“I think we have the potential to have a great season,” South coach Clay Young said. “We did lose six starting seniors from last year’s team and only picked up two freshmen this year. We do have solid numbers from our sophomore class though. We will expect some of our younger kids to step up and play big minutes. A lot of our success will depend on how hard our kids want to push themselves.“
Reach Eddie Mowen Jr. at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @emowen_RH