Durant High School opens the soccer campaign Friday looking for a solid group of returnees to lead the way toward successful seasons.
Both teams will host Lawton MacArthur at Paul Laird Field with the girls starting at 5 p.m.
The Lady Lions have some key pieces to replace from a group that notched a 10-4 record, including four players that were four-year starters. Two of those (Emily Acuna and Alexus Coxsey) drove the scoring attack and two others (Tiffany Cook and goalkeeper Riley Andis) keyed the defense.
Those seniors built a foundation in four years that helped produce an overall record of 37-18 during their careers. A combination of strong defense and powerful offensive striking made the Lady Lions a serious threat in Class 5A.
This year’s crew is looking forward to another strong season and a chance to lead district play with speed and strong defensive depth.
Senior Jatelyn Wallace is another four-year starter and will be heavily guarded by opponents because of her strong left foot touch and ability to clean up shots form the back side.
“Most of her scoring opportunities were from follow up shots last year,” stated head coach Jeff Garrett. “She is a strong midfield and forward player and also has great ball skills and field awareness.”
Madilyn Scott is the team’s other returning senior starter and a speedy player who is a student of the game. She works hard to get better every day and help her team with anything she has to for the betterment of the team, according to Garrett.
“She is also a midfield player who was voted the most improved player as a junior by her teammates and sees a lot of time on the field,” the Lady Lion head coach said. “Junior Shaya Claxton is a three-year starter who has dominant speed and ball skills that scare coaches from other schools. She has been recruited heavily over the past summer and is looking to play soccer after high school. Sophomore Lauren Ruminer is the true speed demon of the team. She may be the fastest female athlete at DHS and is a stand out track athlete as well. Her combination of speed and strength along with a cold as ice attitude on the field make her a nightmare for defenders. She has been seen attacking from the opponent’s goal box all the way through the field to the attacking field and scoring with lightning accuracy.”
Defensively the Lady Lions will rely on three juniors who are starting for the third year in a row with Alissa French, Rachel Lamb and Natalia Bravo.
All three possess an outstanding blend of size, speed and fearlessness.
“Those three have made our goalie’s job very easy in the last two years and they will continue that again this year,” Garrett added. “Bravo is moving from left fullback to sweeper but that move will strengthen our center defensive field and make it even more difficult for attacks on the goal. Lamb at right fullback is the glue that ties up the left side of the attack from visiting teams. Her foot strength and aggressive attack keep most shots to a minimum and help the midfield regain control and attacking motion to the scoring third of the field.
“French who is a top powerlifter on the DHS weightlifting team is what I like to call the “trash man”. She attacks the ball across the entire field and retrieves possession from opposing teams with her quick bursts of speed and agility. She could very easily be a midfield player but prefers helping clean up the field when an attack is in front of her.”
Those returning players along with the addition of Maddie Dancer, Jazmyn Woods, Makenna Lehr, Elizabeth Medina, Valentina Orozco, Deysi Gallardo, Jenny Monroy, as well as first-year keeper Jaylin Ford and freshman Addie Rowland should help make the team a strong contender for the district title. “Our kids play as a team and work as a team. We work to be a family and gain confidence in each other to be successful,” commented Garrett. “As long as we stay healthy and can keep the hunger to win inside we will definitely meet any challenge given to us.”
As for the boys, the Lions have nice mix of returning veterans and talented newcomers in 2017 from an 8-7 finish a year ago.
The defense is anchored by seniors Jake Smith, Chris Lynch and Bryan Usry. Junior Brandon Fox and sophomores Dax Chapman and Rodrigo Camacho will contribute at marking backs.
“Midfield play will be one of the strengths for the Lions this season,” head coach John Wilmoth said. “We have several really good players at that position this year.”
Newcomer Mauricio Vargas along with returning starter Nick Orozco will start in the center. Outside midfielders will be junior Rafael Guzman and sophomore Noe Villegas. Starting forwards will most likely be senior Jose Vazquez and freshman Bryson Lyday.
There is a battle shaping up for goal keeper with several capable hands that will definitely provide depth.
“I have four really athletic keepers this season but I can only play one at a time,” Wilmoth stated. “Junior Blake Whittington has the most experience. He started a couple of games for me last year but senior Mathew Usry, junior Tanner Davidson and freshman Austin Rienecker will also see time in the goal.
“We have a good mix of youngsters and returners this year. The big thing is how many we have out for soccer. We will probably have over 35 players when it’s all said and done. That means that there will be a lot of competition and hopefully that will lead to success on the field. It will be a challenge to get them all playing time but that is a good problem to have. We have a full schedule of both varsity and JV games.”
An added plus for the Lions will be the return of former stalwart Bo White, who will be the team’s assistant this year and has already drawn rave reviews from Wilmoth.
“He’s going to make my job a lot easier,” the head coach added. “I am looking forward to another good season. I think that we will be fun to watch and will continue to get better as the season goes on. We are in a tough district but I think that making the playoffs is well within the realm of possibility.”
Contact Kevin Farr at 580-634-2161 or email@example.com