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Maconaquah boys' soccer team ready to take the field

HANDYMAN: Richard Reimer (C), an exchange student at Maconaquah this season, works the ball through the midfield while junior Seth Sparks (L) waits for a pass during a drill at a recent practice. Sparks takes over in goal for the Braves this season while Reimer will be an important piece of the attacking equation.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

As the final hours of Maconaquah’s 2017 boys’ soccer season finally came to rest, change was imminent across the landscape.

A five-match losing streak to end the season, as well as a bit of dysfunction away from the field, led to Bob Jones taking up the mantle as head coach for the Braves this season with a very different squad than a year ago.

“We are a young, young team with several guys out who are new to soccer,” Jones said. “That said, we’ve seen some good stuff and some not-so-good stuff since practice began and had a great scrimmage Wednesday.

“We’re pretty happy with the numbers we have. You always want more but we picked up a few guys that will contribute for us this year.”

After a slow start, Maconaquah has 18 members on the team this season and because of the inexperience, Jones said the team would be working to build its structure from the back, where many of the returning players have experience.

“We’re going to be heavy on the defense to start the year,” Jones said. “We’ll be working on figuring out how to add offense to it.

“Because of the lack of experience and new players on the team, we’ll be using four defenders and four midfielders to start the year. The big challenge is getting game experience so we can figure out the spacing on offense.”

The Braves return a limited amount of experience from the 2017 squad through seniors Mason Cowan and Isaac Judson, juniors Jose Bojorquez-Batista, Hunter Klutz and Seth Sparks and sophomores Richie Leary, Bryant Teegardin and Austin Straub.

Newcomers to the team include senior Porter Hunt, exchange student Richard Reimer, juniors Nolyn Tubb, Zach Snyder, Elijah Alvarado and Caleb Winegardner, sophomores Matthew Rossman and Cole Bretzman and freshmen Tyler Stapleton and Jaden Judson.

Jones said the returning group was doing its best to not only train but to help their new teammates settle in to their positions.

“Our experienced players are very good at explaining situations to their new teammates, as well as the ideal play to make,” Jones noted. “The returning guys have done a great job of advertising soccer, getting guys out and taking a leadership role by helping the new guys get acclimated to the game.

“Guys like Hunter, Richie, Seth, Bryant and Jose are going to be important players for us as they help guide the team early in the season. We also have an exchange student from Germany in Richard who has shown good ball skills and is going to score and assist a lot for us.”

While more than half of the current squad members are new to the team, Jones said many of the fresh faces had the athletic ability to compete while working themselves into better players.

“The beauty of the new guys coming in is that they are all athletes,” Jones said. “They may be new to the game but, because of their athleticism, they’re going to be helpful to us this season.

“Caleb is a workhorse on the field and Zach is another player whose athletic ability shows. The finesse and touch will come for guys but they’ve impressed me so far.”

A bump in the schedule sees Maconaquah now open the season on the road with Caston Monday instead of at Western Saturday.

Jones said the change was helpful to get an extra practice in but added the team needed to get on the field to better learn how to get into the flow of the game.

“Our first game is now Monday, which helps us out with required practices,” Jones pointed out. “We’re going to be rotating midfielders, trying different combinations as we figure things out.

“As the season goes along, we’ll adjust the scheme to push more offensively and learn to pick the right times to flip the offense on. We’re learning to be patient on offense, be methodical as we work the ball instead of being racehorses and make our transitions through passing, rather than making it a game of sprints.”

With a young squad still taking shape and a pair of matches to prepare for before opening TRC play at Wabash August 18, Jones said the squad was improving quickly and ready to jump into the new season.

“We’ve seen some flashes from these guys,” Jones said. “The defense is going to get better by playing more and we expect the defense to be solid by the end of the year, which will allow us to push up more offensively.

“Our ability to score goals and push forward on offense will be much improved over the course of the season as we become better passers and work the ball methodically. We’re excited to see the guys in live competition, as it’s good for us to gauge where we’re at, and we’re excited to see what the outcome looks like.”