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BOYS SOCCER: Stability brings happiness and hope to Anderson program

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Bearcats looking to surprise with district, regional challenge

By John Herndon

Stability is the word around Anderson County boys' soccer in 2013.

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Hoping the turbulence of 2012 is behind them, the Bearcats open the season Thursday night at Madison Central with hopes of capturing the school's first-ever district championship.

A year ago, things were in turmoil from day one. Head coach Mike Brody, who was in his first year at the helm, resigned in mid-season. The story of who was at fault depended on who was telling the story.

Somehow, though, the players kept plugging away and by the end of the season had taken the runner-up spot in district play and moved on to the Eighth Region Tournament. Simon Kenton ended the Bearcats' season in the regional opener, 5-2.

The Bearcats finished with a 10-11 record.

“The kids were very mature about it and handled it well,” says Khamisi Campbell, who stepped into the coaching job at mid-season when Brody stepped down. “The guys didn't talk much about it. They were very mature and got down to business.”

Campbell is back this year with some optimism about the Bearcats' chances.

“It was a talented team last year and I think this team also can be a very good one,” Campbell says. “This year, we have a very strong focus.”

The Bearcats are setting their sights on the district crown that has eluded Anderson ever since the program began in the late 1980s but will have to replace four seniors – Drew Whitworth, Will Schaefer, Ross Ratliff and Josh Brogan – but Campbell is confident their successors will succeed.

“Those were talented players, but we will have some talented players this year,” says Campbell. “We have two freshmen who will be starting this year in (center midfielder) Dalton Wells and (defender) Cody Gongora.

“We have seniors who have come back and gotten stronger. David Simmons will be our captain and Joe Rose will be vice-captain. Daniel Peach comes in for extra work before every practice. Garrett Pritchert and Ethan Woodrow will be starters.”

Goalie Jordan Thompson, a junior, also returns for the Bearcats.

Campbell, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, refined his game in the semi-pro leagues of his home country. He plans to implement some of what he learned in his homeland with the Bearcats.

“Soccer is a lot of cultural experiences,” Campbell says. “It is where you gre up, where you played the game, the style of play. I will bring some of the Latin American and South American flair for the game.

“Hopefully, it will be fun for the parents and good for the kids,” he says.

Campbell is assisted by Theo Courrejoulles, a local soccer coach who headed up the girls' program at Spencer County last year.

Campbell says Simmons, the team's center midfielder is a key to making the offense click. “Any time he gets the ball in the box, he is a threat (to score),” Campbell says. “He is a very mature leader in terms of getting everybody involved.

“He is a very strong lad. The big thing about David is his maturity. He really grew up last year and I think he will really have a good year this year.”

Rose and Woodrow can line up in the midfield or on defense while Peach is s defensvie spcialist. Pritchert should be one of the attackers from his forward slot.

“We will have to play attacking soccer,” Campbell says. “We have to do the right things and play for each other. If we do that, we have a chance of winning the district this year.”

If the Bearcats are to dethrone Collins, a team that was ranked in the state's Top 5 for most of last season, Anderson must be aggressive and take the game to the opponent. Campbell says he wants the defense to apply pressure and get the ball back early.

Campbell feels some other young players could also step into the rotation for the Bearcats.

As the season starts Thursday, Campbell is simply trying to find the best combination for his team. An early-season showdown with Collins that will go a long way toward determining who will be the district's top seed, is set for Saturday afternoon in Shelbyville.

A year ago, Collins defeated the Bearcats 2-1 in overtime in the regular season, then pulled away to a 3-0 victory in the 30th District final.

“The game can change from year to year in terms of physical development and mental development,” Campbell says.

Campbell seems to think his team might be able to surprise, but he's cautiously optimistic. “It is very hard to predict what a team will do in pre-season,” he says.

But Campbell believes in his team. “They are a good group of kids,” he says. “We all get along.”

 

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