Stark: “It was a difficult decision to step away last year so I’m glad to be back.”
Beginning his second stint at the helm for Mercer County boy’s soccer after a one-year absence, Head Coach Garrett Stark returns to the sidelines with a team filled with upperclassmen.
“It’s a good feeling being back at Mercer County. It was definitely a difficult decision for me to step away last year,” said Stark. “So I’m glad to be back for sure.”
Stark talked about his four seniors and what he’s seen from them from a leadership stand point early in the preseason.
“They’ve definitely been really good leaders for us early on in the season,” he said. “They’ve been vocal, they’ve set examples at training sessions and their effort has been great.”
Nate Randall, John Will Keller, Hunter Booth and John Beaven are the veterans that Stark expects to step up and set the tone for his team in 2019. Stark named Booth and Randall early season captains for the Titans.
“Those two guys are experienced and know what to expect from me,” said Stark.
Keller, who is a governor’s scholar, is one student-athlete Stark said sets a great example off the field.
“He’s definitely going to set the tone in the classroom and he’s done really well stepping into the senior role,” said Stark.
Beaven and Keller will be playing on the back line for the Titans, while Booth and Randall will be a part of the midfield. Both Booth and Randall are capable of scoring and possessing the ball in the middle of the field and setting up the strikers for scoring opportunities.
The junior class for the Titans is their biggest. A lot of experienced players return on the pitch from last season. Sammy Berger returns to play midfield and has proven to be a physical force around the ball. Chris Day and James Johnston returns as two of the top backs for Mercer County. Johnston has started since his freshmen season and knows what to expect from Stark. Day played in goal last season, but Stark said he has impressed early on in the back line and will see a lot of opportunities there.
Two of the three strikers for the Titans are juniors. Jamie Bordeaux and Jeron Winchester. Bordeaux scored four goals last season, but expect that number to go up in 2019 due to more scoring opportunities. Winchester has scored one goal in his career, during his freshmen season, but is expected to step up and score more goals this season, something Stark knows he is capable of.
“We’ve got some great depth in our junior class which is going to give us some opportunities to move some players around and play some different positions. We just have a really strong group of juniors,” said Stark. “Having depth on your team is a big benefit so it’s good to have that flexibility with the junior class.”
Seth Eastman, Orlando Roblero and Luis Valerero are the remaining juniors who are expected to battle for spots in the back line.
“We’re looking at about six players that are rotating on that back line. We usually play four in the back most of the time so having two others players pushing that four that’s going to be starting is good to have as well,” said Stark.
The Titans have four sophomores this season: Job Aparcio, Taylor Booth, Jonah Lewis and Chase Mobley. Aparcio, Booth and Lewis will play primarily in the midfield for Stark. Mobley is one of the three strikers on the team along with Bordeaux and Winchester.
“Obviously at the striker position, we want those guys to score a lot of goals,” said Stark. “We’ve got outside and attacking midfielders who are more than capable of scoring goals as well so the good thing about this year’s team is that we’re going to have scoring threats from multiple players which will make us a tougher team.”
Being underclassmen on a team filled with juniors and seniors is tough, but Stark knows those young guys are capable of stepping in and giving quality varsity minutes.
Arguably the most important position on the field, the goalkeeper, will be manned by junior Aiden West. He split time at the position last season but Stark said West will be the full-time goalie starting the season. Jase Coconaugher, a freshmen, is a young goalie and is a big part of Mercer County’s future in that position. But for now, West has the spot.
“Aiden has done a great job so far. He split time with Chris Day last year. This year, we need Chris in the field so we’ve made Aiden our starting goalie and he’s done a really good job,” said Stark. “He’s grown a lot since last year which will benefit him in goal. He’s more mentally focused this year. A lot of times in the past, he’s beat himself up about giving up goals, but that’s part of the game as a keeper. You’re not going to have a shut out every time you play.”
Stark also talked about his young goalie, Coconaugher.
“Jase is just a freshman, but he’s come in a put some pressure on Aiden. He’s a really good technical goalkeeper so it’s good to have those two battling and training together.”
Stark has seven underclassmen and expects a few to have an impact, especially freshman Beau Brown.
“He’s a very strong and physical player. He has really good size for a freshmen,” he said. “He’s a solid player and is going to see a lot of minutes for us this year.”
Gavin Wilson is the other freshmen along with Brown and Cocanougher and will be primarily used in the midfield.
Stark thinks the sky is the limit for this group.
“Every year that I’ve coached at Mercer County, we’ve tried to play to a high standard,” he said. “This year will be no different. Every time we get on the field, we’re going to go as hard as we can. We challenge ourselves in practice, we go hard in practice and in games.”
Mercer County Soccer Schedule
Date Opponent Site
Aug. 13 Bourbon County Away
Aug. 15 Woodford County Away
Aug. 17 East Jessamine Home
Aug. 22 Somerset Home
Aug. 29 Southwestern Away
Sept. 3 Lincoln County Away
Sept. 5 Garrard County Home
Sept. 7 Western Hills Home
Sept. 10 East Jessamine Away
Sept. 12 West Jessamine Home
Sept. 17 Anderson County Away
Sept. 19 Franklin County Away
Sept. 21 West Jessamine Away
Sept. 24 Danville Home
Sept. 26 Frankfort Home
Sept. 28 Boyle County Away
Oct. 3 Lexington Christian Home
Find the rest of the story on page 1B of this week’s issue of the Harrodsburg Herald or click here to subscribe.