DOBSON — The Surry Central soccer team had high hopes last season, but those hopes came crashing down in a penalty shootout loss to Lincolnton during the first round of the NCHSAA 2A playoffs.
Despite a tremendous 18-4-2 record in 2015, the Golden Eagles once again experienced an early exit. This year, Surry Central will look for its 10 returning seniors to rewrite the script of past failures and make a deep run in the playoffs.
However, head coach Blake Roth and his experienced squad know the pressure is on for the upcoming season, the final campaign for his talented group of seniors.
“The kids have realized that for the majority of them, this is their last shot at it,” Roth said. “Our goal is to compete for a state title every year. We’ve got a very mature group returning, and we’re already working towards accomplishing our goals.”
There are still some holes to fill in Roth’s starting lineup, even with 10 seniors back in the fold for 2016. The most notable departures to graduation came in the Eagles’ attack, where Surry Central lost nearly half of its goals scored last season with Justo Cristobal, Brayan Gomez and Adrian Gonzalez graduating in June.
In Surry Central’s preferred 4-4-2 formation, Miguel Tello is set to occupy one of the lead striker positions this season. Tello played midfield last year and always has an eye for the goal.
“He is a midfielder, but when push comes to shove, you have to do some moving and shaking,” Roth said. “He loves to take chances and he will fire. He’s not going to come off after the game and have me wishing he took some more chances.”
The other forward position is still an ongoing competition among multiple Eagles. One name to watch is freshman Axel Rangel, who has spent time as the other striker in Surry Central’s summer scrimmages.
Speaking of competition, the most fierce position battle for Surry Central lies in between the posts. The Eagles have two quality goalkeepers returning this season in Jonathan DeSantiago and Ryan Gordon.
“We have two goalies who are both very strong and have experience, and this is a luxury Surry Central soccer has never had in years past,” Roth said. “We probably won’t name a starting goalie until the season starts, or we might even let both guys play to start the year before we see who wins the spot.”
Whoever wins the starting job will have an experienced defense working in front of him. The Eagles back-line is relatively set, with returning starters Moises Pineda and Fernando Talavera working as center backs. Michael Escobedo and Jovani Reynoso are slated to start on the outside of the defense.
Three out of the four midfield spots are set as well with returning players ready to take the next step. Arturo Lopez and Julio Sanchez will set up shop in the center of the midfield and look to create chances for the two strikers ahead of them.
“Those two are like brothers, I call them twins. One left-foot (Lopez), and one right-foot (Sanchez),” Roth said. “They’ve really put their time in, because Adrian left a big hole in the middle, but those guys are ready to step in.”
To the left of Lopez and Sanchez will be Javier Villicaña, who possesses a diverse skill set in attack and defense. Villicaña could move into a more defensive position in close matches where Surry Central is trying to hold a lead.
The final midfield spot is another position up for grabs, and Roth believes as many as five players could lay claim to the starting job. The other four will come off the bench, but are guaranteed to see consistent playing time throughout the season.
Surry Central kicks its season off on Aug. 15 with a home match against Elkin. The Eagles have already played a few scrimmages this summer, and they will get a better feel for where they stack up on Saturday, when they travel to Mount Tabor for the last of their preseason friendlies.
Reach Jackson at 415-4702 and on twitter @jacksonfuller16