Clinton High School hosted the first-ever Sampson County men’s soccer jamboree on Wednesday, with participants including the Dark Horses, Hobbton High and Lakewood High and out-of-county guests Southern Wayne.
Much like the football jamboree, the teams took part in round-robin style matches. Two teams faced off against one another while the other two teams sat out and watched. Each team played a total of 35 minutes before alternating, with 5-minute intermissions between the matches. Every team played a total of three games before the night wrapped up.
CHS head coach Brad Spell was satisfied with his team’s overall performance, despite losing 12 seniors last season. Early turnovers along with ball movement provided areas that needed a little work.
“We still have a few things to work on, like our turnovers. We turned the ball over too much in our first scrimmage, something we need to cut down on in the future,” said Spell. “We also didn’t move the ball quite like we practiced, so that’s also something we can get better at. I thought we played pretty well, especially in our last two games once we started settling down. We tried some new looks as well and overall I think it was a good first scrimmage.”
Spell was also impressed with how well his seniors are stepping up for the team and providing leadership to the younger guys that are new to varsity.
“We’ve got a lot of guys that have played soccer all their lives but they’ve never played varsity, so they’re learning it’s a different game — it’s much faster,” said Spell. “That’s why I really like the way our seniors are leading the team, especially since I’ve only got a handful of returners this year. They’re doing great work as the leaders. They are really helping the new guys out.”
“I’ll say one thing about this team: they will be as good as they want this year, as long as they do whatever needs to be done on and off the field,” said Spell. “They really can be as good as they want.”
Hobbton Wildcats head coach Johnathan Jacobs also thought that his team played well. He believes his team will be able to compete for their conference despite having its share of young players.
“I thought we played good; we mixed it up with our lineups, putting our new guys with some of our veterans,” said Jacobs. “I believe that really helped show our freshmen and our team the level they need to be at and that’s really what scrimmages are for.”
Jacobs is also hopeful that his freshman can step in to fill some voids for the Wildcats this year and provide some reliable help for his returners, especially after losing last year’s standout Christian Vega.
“We are going to have anywhere from nine to 12 returners this season, but we still lost three starters from last year,” said Jacobs. “Some of our freshmen have never played with me before, but I hope that once they get comfortable they can fill in spots we need. Even with our new guys and needing to fill in some gaps, I still expect us to compete for our conference this year.”
“That’s what scrimmages are for: to help us learn where we are and where we need to be for the upcoming season,” said Jacobs.
Jay Faircloth, head coach for Lakewood High, may have the most to work on out of the county schools due to his extremely young team, but their defense shows strong promise for the upcoming season.
“This is, without a doubt, the youngest team in my sixth year of coaching that I’ve ever had to work with,” said Faircloth. “We only have four returners this season, we lost nine from last year. Everyone else is mostly freshmen, sophomores and juniors. On top of that, all of our guys weren’t there. Even after all the practicing we’ve done it’s still hard to get our team completely together, due to it being summer and them being preoccupied with things like work.”
Despite all of that, team defense, he said, looked good in the scrimmages. Offense was another story.
“I thought that we looked really good defensively in all three of our scrimmages which impressed me a lot,” said Faircloth. “Our offense, however, needs some work. I didn’t like it, we weren’t being aggressive enough, didn’t regroup like we needed to or swing the ball like we should have. It was too slow. All things considered, though, I thought our performance was really good for a young team.”
Having such a young team hasn’t discouraged Faircloth at all, as he believes his team will be ready to welcome the challenge this season poses.
“I told my guys before yesterday’s scrimmage we’ve got three goals — to compete, get better and have fun,” said Faircloth. “Even if it’s a lot to work on before opening day, these scrimmages have helped us find out what those things are and we are up for the challenge this year.”
Reach Sports Editor Michael Hardison at email@example.com. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter @SampsonInd.