JOHNSON CITY — As a cold wind whistled through Kermit Tipton Stadium on Tuesday evening, it was clear that spring had not yet sprung.
But with high school soccer season looming, the Big 7 Conference boys teams, along with Sullivan South, sprang into action in the league’s annual jamboree. Four 20-minute scrimmages and a skills competition punctuated the evening’s activities, which gave everyone a dress rehearsal before the new season starts next week.
Science Hill appears to be the odds-on favorite to win the league title, especially with Dobyns-Bennett in the midst of a rebuilding project.
“I believe we graduated 13, and about eight or nine started on a regular basis,” said D-B coach Blake Rutherford. “It’s going well. They’ve bought into the new aspect of working hard every single day and trying to get better. Obviously it’s going to be a process.”
Not only did the Indians lose some excellent players, they also lost much of their leadership structure. Rutherford said this year’s trio of captains — Ty Oreskovic, Ethan Slusher and Evan Fenyves — will be counted on to keep the squad accountable on the pitch and off.
While the Indians look to rebuild, Volunteer’s young program is still working to get off the ground. The number of players in coach Nathan Bailey’s program is up to 23 and work is being done to bolster the feeder program that will churn out future Falcons.
“We’re starting to look more and more like soccer players instead of guys playing kickball,” Bailey said. “If you saw any of our matches last year, they’ve made some tremendous progress.
“It can be defeating sometimes when you go out and the score doesn’t reflect the work you’ve put in, but they’re good sports about it and they’re a lot of fun to be around.”
South, meanwhile, is making the transition from Class AAA to Class AA, a move that has put the Rebels in a three-team league along with Elizabethton and University High.
South was on hand Tuesday to get some work in against its former conference foes, but coach Keith Parker said his team’s new league will demand his players’ full attention.
“Both of them have good teams year in and year out, so it’s still going to be a challenge,” Parker said. “We’re expecting a fight to see who’s going to be on top.”
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