(Photo by David Jenkins, Staff)
SIKESTON -- Speed. Coming into the 2008 varsity soccer season, that is the one thing that Sikeston head coach Derrick Long said that his team is relying on as their biggest asset.
In previous seasons, Long said that if the speed wasn't there, then the Bulldogs relied on Scott Droddy to provide a wall in goal to stop opponents incoming shots.
"Losing Scott Droddy was a big hole for us to fill," said Long of his graduated keeper.
Enter Jason Isaacs.
"Jason Isaacs is stepping in and is doing really good in practice right now," Long said of his new skilled goalie. "We're really happy with how he's improving every day for us. I think he's going to be solid for us. That was a big question mark, but I think he's going to be solid."
Long said that the defense looks pretty tough for 2008, but that scoring goals is the key.
"I think defensively we have more potential this year," he said. "Our biggest thing last year was scoring goals. If I remember right, we scored as many goals as we gave up. We really need to double that -- we really need to score twice as many goals as we give up.
"We really need a couple of guys to step up on the defensive end and if we get that then I think we'll be good."
Returning varsity members, Dakota Trevino, Stephen Beydler and Robert Brooks, all seniors, have potential to step up and become team leaders.
"We only have three seniors so, they're going to have to step up," said Long. "We're going to be pretty young and inexperienced going in. "(These guys) are going to have to step up and take a leadership role. Right now nobody has really stepped up yet to take the team under their wing, but we're hoping that somebody does here in the next couple of weeks before our first game."
"Our young guys haven't logged a lot of hours in yet on varsity," he went on to say. "Skill-wise, I think we're going to be a lot better than we were last year. That's a plus. It's just going to be getting some games under the belt for some of these guys."
Aside from the three seniors, juniors Jordan Davis, Cody Anderson and Darin Dicus and sophomores Mikey Botkin and Daniel Sanders will have to fill in the rest of the gaps.
Losing Hunter Dillender was also key according to Long, but he said that he has a freshman coming in that has an opportunity to make an immediate impact.
"Hunter Dillender was a really good player for us," he said. "We had some other good, solid players on the field, but I think we have a new freshman that has stepped up and will probably start for us. He's solidified a spot already and he's just going to step in and be fine for us -- Hunter Williams -- We're expecting big things from him."
As for key games on the schedule, Long said that there isn't one in particular that sticks out in the minds of any of the coaches on staff.
"We used to circle games here and there and be excited about playing teams," he said. "But, now we're just trying to get back to that district championship game. Last year we didn't make it there and the three years before that we were in it so, right now we're just going to try to improve every game and be playing at our peak when districts come around."
As far as tournament play is concerned, the Bulldogs will participate in the Notre Dame Soccerfest as well as the Carbondale Tournament throughout the season, completing the year with the district tournament in hopes of continuing to the playoffs.
Up first for Sikeston is a road match with the Saxony Lutheran Crusaders on Sept. 2 at 4 p.m. The Bulldogs' first home game is scheduled for Sept. 9 at 5 p.m. against Marion.