Boys prep soccer: Choctaw, Niceville, Navarre seek region title berths

Published: Friday, February 1, 2013 at 11:02 PM.

It is a message that unites Niceville head coach Wes Nelson and Choctawhatchee head coach Chris McDaniel.

When it comes to this year’s Sweet 16, a round the two programs know all too well, there is no false sense of bravado or tinge of arrogance.

Instead, as both coaches lead their teams into tonight’s region semifinals, there’s a calm air of confidence in both camps.

Why? Because both teams feel like they control their own destiny.

“We have a lot of confidence in ourselves,” Nelson said. “If we bring the motivation to play hard and bring that intensity, we feel like we’ll be in good shape.”

McDaniel, whose team is attempting to move one step closer to making it three straight trips to the final four, echoed that thought.

“We’re not overconfident, but we’re happy with where we’re at,” he said. “Right now, we’re just talking about doing the things we need to do. We’re not talking about the other team.”

For both Choctaw and Niceville, the other team is a familiar foe.

Choctaw hosts Gulf Breeze tonight in a Region 1-3A semifinal matchup at 7 at Joe Etheredge Stadium, while nearly 13 miles north Niceville welcomes district foe Navarre for a Region 1-4A semifinal tilt at Twin Oaks Park.

Cruise control

Putting it mildly, Choctaw has faced little – if any – adversity this postseason.

Outscoring Milton, Rutherford and Washington by a collective 12-0, the Indians have ridden the scoring touch of Sean Hoffstatter and the lockdown effort of a defense that has forced 19 shutouts in 24 games.

One of those shutouts came in a 2-0 win against Gulf Breeze in the Tallahassee Classic, but McDaniel refuses to put too much stock into the victory.

“It’s a tournament where you may not necessarily play all of your best guys,” he said. “Now teams are fresh and trying to stay alive, so we probably haven’t seen their best.”

Based on the postseason results, Choctaw appears to be playing its best soccer at the most opportune time.

At the forefront of that success are Hoffstatter and a Trapper Chechak-led defense featuring Adam Cahill in goal.

Peaking with the return of Derek Castelin, who returned in the postseason after being sidelined for a month with a back injury, Hoffstatter is coming off back-to-back hat tricks and has seven goals in the postseason.

“Getting Derek back in there has helped Sean do his thing,” McDaniel said. “With them it’s like pairing a rooster in with a racehorse. Now Sean doesn’t feel like it’s all on his shoulders.”

As for the defense, which just doesn’t get beat over the top, the shutouts are a nod to a collective effort that extends from the midfield to Cahill, whom McDaniel said has been coming up with great saves night in and night out.

Anyone’s game

Just last week, Niceville defeated the Raiders 2-1 for the program’s ninth straight district crown. That marked the third matchup this season between the two schools, both of which have had success in the series.

For Navarre, which lost 5-2 to the Eagles early in the campaign, the lone triumph came in a 1-0 nondistrict win late in the season.

Asked what he has gathered from the three meetings, Nelson said, “I’ve learned that we need to be prepared. They deserve to be exactly where they’re at.  “The last two times we played them we won one and they won the other.”

To get to the Sweet 16 was no easy task for both squads. While Niceville needed a Chandler Dutram goal in the 72nd minute to survive a 2-1 win over Lincoln, Navarre’s Jordan Supra scored with 3 minutes and 33 seconds left to lift the Raiders to a 2-1 victory at Chiles.

For the Eagles, the down-to-the-wire victory was spurred on by a halftime speech from Nelson, who asked his team to raise its intensity after going into break tied at 0. The players took heed of the request, but Nelson said the Eagles can’t afford another lapse for a whole half.

“Hopefully the confidence from that second half will carry over and the players will bring that intensity for the whole game,” he said. “We won’t be able to take a half off against Navarre.”

Reader comments posted to this article may be published in our print edition. All rights reserved. This copyrighted material may not be re-published without permission. Links are encouraged.

▲ Return to Top


Soccer Galleries