Boys' soccer preview: Choctaw aims for 3rd straight trip to final four

Published: Monday, November 5, 2012 at 01:17 PM.
On the surface, it was just a laid-back scene of soccer players horsing around during seventh period Wednesday afternoon at Choctaw High School ’s practice soccer field.

But while that may be the case, the symbolism of senior Trapper Chechak – the same stalwart goalkeeper that helped lead the Indians to back-to-back final-four appearances the past two years – lofting picture-perfect cross after picture perfect cross from 30 to 40 yards out to sophomore Sean Hoffstatter captured several themes for this year’s Indian soccer team.

In one sense, it was the perfect blend of veteran and up-and-comers uniting, which will be a theme for a crew that lost six seniors and returns only four starters from last year’s 22-4 state semifinal squad.

In another, it captured both the versatility and depth of Chris McDonald’s crew.
While some crosses curled just under the near post for a would-be goal, others floated in the box for Hoffstatter to track down.

The display featured the strength of Chechak’s right leg, a leg that for most teams would be featured prominently in a forward/midfielder role.

But in Choctaw, it’s a weapon that will be leaned on heavily on for a completely-rebuilt back row.

“I can basically set up my defense to exactly where I’d want it to be as goalie,” Chechak said. “We’re basically going to have two goalies on the back line.”

The move was made not only because of leadership needed by Chechak, who concedes he’s a better defender, on an inexperienced defense, but also because of the Indians’ faith in goalkeeper Adam Cahill.

“He’s a great keeper and we have confidence in him,” Chechak said. “I think the biggest thing for our defense is not to put our goalie into situations that he doesn’t want to be in.”
As to who’s starting defensively alongside Chechak and sophomore Isaiah Hawkins is still up for debate.

“With the back four, we have about seven fighting for starting spots back there so we’ll just look at the preseason games to determine that,” McDaniel said. “They’ll be a little shaky, a little nervous at first until we figure out where everybody fits in. There’s a lot of talent, it just depends on us finding the right places for everybody to fit in.”

That seems to be a message resonating across the board for the Indians, who have a varsity roster of 21 and 60-plus overall counting the two junior varsity squads. And belying the strength of the youth movement, the junior varsity went 12-1 last year.

“The JV went 12-1 last year, but it’s a whole new game at this level,” McDaniel said. “They’re a little nervous and they know they have big shoes to fill. They’ll just take it one game at a time and slowly get better.”

The big shoes alluded to are the Indians’ back-to-back final-four appearances, and team chemistry – which Hoffstatter says is flowing early on – will be integral in making it three straight.

“We know that our team is very young this year,” Hoffstatter said. “As long as we keep our chemistry going, I don’t think there’s a team that can stop us because we’re like family on this team.”

A family with a strong offense.

Led by Hoffstatter, a midfielder/forward who could potentially become the fifth consecutive Daily News Boys Soccer Player of the Year to come from Choctaw, the offense is the least of McDaniel’s concerns.

“The offense is good,” the 10th year Indians coach said. “We have Hoffstatter coming back, and he’ll be a key for us. We also have senior Derek Castelin and Dominik Jordan coming back as seniors to shore up the front, so we’re looking good.”

And the optimism extends to the entire roster, which will be relied on to give the Indians fresh legs on the field at all times.

“We probably have more depth than we had last year, so we have a lot of guys coming off the bench and that puts a lot of pressure on the guys on the field. Before, we may have not had anyone behind them so now, they know if they want to stay in the game they have to play well. We might not have a dropoff when our starters come out.”

Fort Walton Beach
Head coach: Greg DeVito (2 nd year)
Last year’s overall/district record: 12-5-1, unknown
Starters returning: 7
Seniors lost: 4
Key player(s): Everyone
Coach speak: “I just want the varsity and the JV teams to continue developing and improving, and to me that will lead to better results.”

Navarre
Head coach: Ken McDonald (1 st year)
Last year’s overall/district record: N/A
Starters returning: N/A
Seniors lost: N/A
Key player(s): Goalkeeper Amuia Alford, forward Ryan Olsen, Jordan Supra
Coach speak: “I’ve been told that this is the most talented group of players Navarre’s had in a long time, and there’s just so much talent coming in. I’ve only been able to work with the team for three weeks, so right now we’re just working on the tactical skills and awareness to be successful. The reputation is that Navarre soccer is not good, but we’re looking to prove people wrong.”

Rocky Bayou
Head coach: Steve Byrd (8 th year)
Last year’s overall/district record: 9-6-1, 3-2-1
Starters returning: 3
Seniors lost: 6
Key player(s): Center midfielder Drew Kirkpatrick
Coach speak: The first goal is to win our district games and the district tournament, and right now we’re focused on learning positions and learning to play the game.

Walton
Head coach: Chris Cashman (1 st year)
Last year’s overall/district record: 1-something, 0-10
Starters returning: 7
Seniors lost: N/A
Key player(s): Goalkeeper Clay Termenter, striker Matt Majors and defender Gabriel Solis.
Coach speak: “We need to work on a strong offense. We have a strong defense already. Also, we want to improve our record from last year and … of course we’d love to win district.”

South Walton
Head coach: Roberto Perez
Last year’s overall/district record: N/A
Starters returning: 4
Seniors lost:5
Key player(s): Edgar
Coach speak: “We have a great chance to win districts.”

Baker
Head coach: James Kerrell (2 nd year)
Last year’s overall/district record: 1-11, no district
Starters returning: 7
Seniors lost: 2
Key player(s): forward Kodi Moen, midfielder/forward Tyler Colonna
Coach speak: Being a second-year program, we want to improve and get better this year. With this group of kids, I feel we can be competitive this year.

Niceville
Head coach: Wes Nelson (12 th year)
Last year’s overall/district record: 28-3, 14-0
Starters returning: 4
Seniors lost: 11
Key player(s): Center-mid Colton Savage
Coach speak: “Right now, we just really want to come together as a team. We want to build off what we did lat year and take it a step further.”


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