For the Coal Valley News

MADISON - A new year brings both new and familiar faces to the roster for the Scott Skyhawks boys' soccer team. The team, which reached the sectional finals in their previous year, comes back with a new goal: to make their mark in a group of well-established opponents.

The team is made up largely of members of the Class of 2021. The team includes 13 juniors, the largest class since the freshman class from the team's inaugural year.

"They are our most skilled group to date as a whole," says Head Coach Zach Boyd, "because they have had opportunities that no other class has had."

The junior class includes many standouts. Starting from the back of the team's starting XI is goalkeeper Greg Howard, who Boyd says has stepped up immensely in the past and shows growth in his leadership ability.

On the back line, center-backs Harrison Parsons and Jerod Ferrell show excellent chemistry on and off the field, according to Boyd.

A large portion of the juniors are midfielders, giving that area of the field plenty of depth for Scott's coaches to work with. Ian Gillispie moves up from the back line to help begin to fill the gap left by the team's two graduated seniors, Sean Hill and Grant Older, a daunting task. Hill and Older combined for nearly 60 goals in the previous season, a significant part of the team's power. Chase Jackson, a "solid" central midfielder, will continue to play the ever-important CM role. Boyd also mentions that Carson Asbury has improved his game in preparation for the year.

Moving to the front, Luke Older has the potential to be a dangerous striker.

"His skill and precision on the ball has been really amazing to see in the spring," says Boyd. "His growth over the offseason was fantastic."

Boyd adds that every junior representing the black-and-gold this year plays an important role, whether it is a starting or substitute role.

"With a class of 13 kids, and only having 11 spots on the field, that kind of generates the competition we've been looking for over the past nine years," Boyd adds.

The team is given options due to the many players from all four classes that qualify for multiple positions.

The defensive decisions will undoubtedly be tough to make.

"We are a team that is focused on the defensive side of the ball. We want to stop people from scoring," Boyd says of the Skyhawks' style. "You can't win a game if you can't score goals, so that's our mentality, if we can stop you from scoring, you can't beat us."

The starting midfield, given the depth, will also be a challenge. The team has eight or nine boys capable of starting in those roles.

"We have guys who can be back line players, that can also be wings, that can also play in the center mid," Boyd explains, naming Tanner Hale as an example. "He is kind of a jack-of-all-trades; he fits where we need him."

His skill allows him to slot nearly anywhere, whether he needs to be a full-on stopper as a defenseman, or a goal-scorer in the front.

"He is kind of our Swiss Army knife," Boyd said.

Utility players are important for an unpredictable high school soccer season. Though it comes with its own challenges, the options are welcome for a team that has worked hard to have them. Boyd looks forward to seeing how the entire team steps up to the challenge and works as a unit.

"This year, I think we are going to be a more balanced team, to where our attack is going to come from everywhere and from everyone We have to be 'team attacking,' so it's not just one or two guys that get the ball and go. We've got five or six guys that are in the attack, and it could be any of them that puts the ball in the back of the net." With the new freshman and transfers, as well as the high potential, Boyd says it could be a fun system, but potential is just that unless you reach it.

"Our boys are excited, and I think the community is excited about what potentially could take place," he said. "And we'll get tested. We'll be tested from the very first game when we step on the field with Riverside, and we'll be tested throughout the season with Greenbrier East, Winfield, Charleston Catholic, and Nitro. The perennial powers that be in the high school soccer world, we have a lot of them on our schedule."

The test will be most important for the postseason, where Boyd wants the boys to be ready.

"It's an exciting time to be involved with Scott High School soccer, whether it be the boys program or the girls program," Boyd said. "There's a lot of growth going on in the community. There's a lot of growth going on with soccer all around. We're excited to be a part of it, and excited to see what the 2019 season has to offer."