The Transylvania Times -

Strong Junior Class Looking To Lead Blue Devil Soccer Team - Brevard, NC

 

August 10, 2017

Jeremiah Reed

The 2017 Brevard High School boys' soccer team.

Going into his second season as head coach of the Brevard Blue Devils' soccer team, Scott Russell doesn't have the same level of experience he did on last year's squad, but he's optimistic that a slew of juniors and underclass players are ready to pick up the slack.

After finishing 3-15-1 last fall, Brevard enters 2017 looking for their first winning season in five years.

To accomplish that goal, Russell will lean on a group of nine juniors, as the Blue Devils field only one senior going into the season.

One positive sign has been the increased attendance during the team's summer workouts, and Russell is hopeful that extra practice will pay dividends in the form of winning games.

"We gave up a lot of seniors last year, but the underclassmen have really been working hard," he said. "They're very young and they're very dedicated. The growth curve during workouts is where it needs to be. We're knocking the rust off. Some players are starting from scratch and getting touches on the ball, learning formations and learning their responsibilities."

The Blue Devils certainly have gaps to fill entering 2017.

They lost their top offensive playmaker Aaron Neuman and goalkeeper Layton Phillips to graduation, as well as a handful of other starters.

Because the team is relying on new players stepping up and embracing starting roles, Russell said cohesion will be huge if the Blue Devils want to be successful this year.

"We've only got one senior, so the underclassmen are going to have to develop their chemistry as a group. The X's and O's will fall into place; we can engineer that as necessary. The guys having trust and faith in each other is really important this year," Russell said.

Last season was a tough ride for Brevard. Of the team's 15 losses, 10 came by three goals or more.

Scoring didn't come much easier as the Blue Devils scored three goals just once all season in a 4-3 overtime loss at home to Tuscola.

Russell is taking a defensive approach going into this year as his main concern is cutting down on the number of goals allowed.

"We've strengthened our defense and added some extra defensive positions. Luckily, we've got some strong offensive players coming up that can put the ball in the net, so we shouldn't have too much of a drop-off," he said.

A big part of the offense will be the team's lone senior, Wesley Pierron.

Last year, Pierron served mainly in a defensive midfield role, but this year Russell wants to let him roam more on the offensive end and set up those around him.

"(Wesley) is the team marshal. He's our team captain. He's a pass-first player, so although he's very capable of scoring, he can also – with equal effectiveness – distribute the ball to other players who can score. His senior leadership and experience is going to be huge for him," Russell said.

Some other players Russell is looking to for big things this year include Andrew Tuckey and Reilly Taylor, both juniors.

"They've been playing at the varsity level since ninth grade," he said. "They work well with each other and work with the rest of the team very well. They can also play on either the offensive or defensive side."

There are also five underclassmen on the varsity roster. Three are sophomores, including Gabriel Buenrostro, who saw ample time at the varsity level last year.

There are also two freshman: Parker Grant and Erik Cruz.

Russell said there is a load of talent among the rising ninth graders after a successful season last year at Brevard Middle School.

Several of those freshmen, he said, have the potential to get playing time with the varsity.

Russell was quick to note Cruz' impact on the team as a freshman, citing his "phenomenal skill."

The schedule for 2017 features some different teams than in the past, including Madison, Thomas Jefferson, Mountain Heritage and East Rutherford.

Brevard's move into the new Mountain Six Conference meant dropping six conference games that had to be replaced by non-conference competition.

Russell said he worked to schedule opponents that would be a competitive challenge, but also games that Brevard can win.

"Scheduling games is never a problem. We can always find opponents, but we want to find opponents where both sides can compete and it's not a one-sided match because those don't benefit anybody," he said.

An interesting note about the schedule is the fact that all of the Blue Devils' conference games are lumped at the end of the season, with the first being a home match against East Henderson on Sept. 25 – which comes 11 games into the season.

Having nearly half the season under their belt before diving into the conference schedule should give Brevard time to sort out any kinks and fine-tune their line-up.

As for the new Mountain Six, the Blue Devils no longer face West Henderson, North Henderson or Tuscola.

Their new conference opponent is perennial power Hendersonville.

"I won't miss Tuscola at all," Russell said, with a laugh. "But Hendersonville is interesting and those will be a very difficult couple of games."

When asked about his expectations, Russell didn't shy away from discussing the playoffs – a position Brevard hasn't been in since 2012 when they finished 13-5-1 and made a run into the third round.

Getting there won't be easy, but Russell believes it's an attainable goal if Brevard can take care of business in the non-conference portion of the schedule and grind out close victories against conference foes when it matters the most.

"We're going to make the playoffs by winning the games we're supposed to win. If we're in a game with evenly matched competition, we need to win those games. If it goes to overtime, we need to win those games. The only losses that will be easy for me to swallow will be the lop-sided ones, if there are any. If it's a close game, I'm going to expect to win," he said.

 
 

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