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Eleven players returning would give any coach enough reasons to be excited about the upcoming season, but North Hardin Christian boys’ soccer coach Josh Hardin is more excited about the additions of three new players in eighth-grader Garrett Bowman, junior Nash Martin and senior older brother Brandt Martin.
“The new guys bring a whole new level of soccer experience and skill to our team, especially the Martin brothers and Garrett Bowman,” Hardin said. “The Martins have been involved in ODP (Olympic Development Program) training and are dedicated soccer players who run their mile under 5 (minutes). Garrett is young but he has evident skill sets and soccer know-how that is much beyond his years.”
The Martins will man the center of the field on offense (Brandt) and defense (Nash). Bowman will also be up top at left mid.
“I expect Brandt and Nash to get comfortable in their roles and with their teammates and then I expect them to control the middle of the field no matter what team they face,” Hardin said. “Garrett is so talented for an eighth grader that I sometimes forget that he is so young.”
Returning players are senior right mid Zack Fairfax, senior left striker Saadiq Phillips, senior right center back Jaedon Brown, junior left fullback Daniel Shumate, junior left center back Juan Dozier, junior right striker Tyler McCawley, freshman keeper Steven Taylor, freshmen midfielders Hunter McPeek and Braden McPeek, freshman left striker Broxton Kennedy and freshman striker Evan Phlaegar.
“They definitely have improved, but they are in need of the consistency of touch and the development of chemistry with one another,” Hardin said. “Most of them are not experienced soccer players but all are dedicated hard workers and athletes in other sports.”
Hardin said Brown, Phillips and McCawley have performed well in the preseason.
“Jaedon shows great leadership in the back sweeper position,” he said. “Saadiq and Tyler have raw speed and desire and once they learn to run and control but also distribute, they will be a formidable one-two punch.”
Taylor has grown by leaps and bounds in net, Hardin said.
“Steven is young for a goalie, but he has really shown much improvement in the last few days leading up to our first game,” he said. “I hope that his hard work will pay off for all of us in the long run.”
Other newcomers include senior left fullback Fernando Carmona, senior fullback Zack Aistrop and sophomore fullback Brian Meinshausen.
“The majority of our guys have really stood out to me because of their willingness to follow my lead and do what I ask with little complaining or failure,” Hardin said. “I need that more than anything.”
With so many seniors on the roster, Hardin believes the Falcons can contend for the KCAA state title.
They lost in the semifinals last season to eventual state champion Somerset Christian.
“I have a lot of seniors this year, and I hope to achieve a state championship, but more than anything I want to teach these guys about Christ and the importance of learning and growing everyday,” Hardin said. “I believe that we have such amazing potential in store for this year but we just have to get past the first part of the season.
“I want them to grow together, get better everyday, be real and responsible when no one is looking, and win a state tournament along the way.”
Josh Claywell can be reached at 270-505-1752 or email@example.com.