Experience will be an advantage for the Thompson High boys soccer team this season. Head coach Rusty Cowley has familiar faces throughout the lineup, which is a comforting feeling.
“We’re returning eight starters,” Cowley said. “ We’ve got a big senior class, (and) are expecting good things from this group, because of what they’ve done here in the past. They’re playing year-round, getting that exposure. It should be a good season for them.”
Cowley will find out quickly about his team. The Warriors fill the first two weeks of the season with eight games. They’ve played three games thus far, beating Helena, 5-1, and losing to Prattville (1-0) and Enterprise (5-0).
“We’re changing some things up with the way we’ve played in the past, formation-wise and tactically, to get our best possible 11 on the field at a time,” Cowley said. “The first two weeks, we have a lot of chances to get things in place and figure out our strengths and weaknesses.”
While the first two weeks will answer some questions, Cowley has a good idea what to expect because of the veteran makeup of his team.
“I think we’re relatively balanced,” Cowley said. “In the past, it’s one of those things where we can score pretty good but we may not be able to keep them out or we may be able to keep them out but may struggle to score. This season, we’ve got three starters returning on the backline, two at midfield, two up front. We’re pretty well spread out this year.”
Some of the leaders are expected to be seniors Dion Bradley, Kenny Rodriquez, Cole Hadley and Jackson Hall. Bradley and Rodriquez are four-year varsity players with the other two are in their third varsity season. Hadley has committed to University of Alabama at Huntsville ad Hall has committed to the University of West Alabama.
Cowley also mentioned junior Kevin Santana and Ryan Pope as key contributors. Cowley said some underclassmen has the potential to come in and join the rotation but said the concentration is on the upperclassmen right now.
“We’re a melting pot of strengths and weaknesses and all that kind of stuff,” Cowley said. “I think we have a pretty good balance and we have a lot of potential. It’s just a matter of whether we can apply and bend teams to our will when it gets into game time.”
The maturity of his team should help with one of the keys to the season.
“I think the experience we have, being able to keep our composure when things get tough and keep faith whenever we may stumble, (is a key),” Cowley said. “Will it be able to push us over the top? These guys have won tournaments, placed in tournaments, played top teams down to wire. It’s just experience and perseverance to be able to keep plugging along, that will go a long way with this group.