DOBSON — Don’t sleep on the Surry Central soccer team this fall.
The Golden Eagles sustained heavy graduation losses from last year’s team, which won 19 matches and finished second in the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference standings, but the team won’t give up its place among the state’s stronger 2A soccer programs without a fight.
“We lost two defenders, our goalie and two forwards,” said head coach Blake Roth. “Three of them were All-Conference, and one kid was All-State. (But) we had quite a few players who were ready to fill those roles. We’re having a few growing pains, but it’s looking promising.”
The last time Central wasn’t a contender in the WPAC, many of the current Eagles were in elementary school. Surry Central has an 83-22-10 record since the start of the 2010 season, and there are enough experienced returnees and talented newcomers to once again make the Golden Eagles an opponent no one looks forward to facing.
One of the strong points on last year’s team was that Central did a good job of controlling the midfield, and what may have been lost on opponents is that the Eagles did this with a quartet of sophomores. Nolan McMillen, Miguel Tello, Chaco Sanchez and Axel Rangel are all back this fall, and as Roth was quick to point out, they’ll still be wearing back and gold in 2019, as well.
“Those are four quality players, and they controlled the midfield for us last year,” he said. “That is a definite bright spot on this team.”
It is possible that one or more of these players might spend time at other spots on the field, since Central suffered heavy losses on both its front and back line, but the presence of four experienced midfielders who have already proven their worth gives the Eagles a big leg up on many of their opponents.
Another thing that Roth is looking forward to is getting back a key defender who missed all of last season. In early August of 2016, Jovani Reynoso was involved in a car accident while out of town, and the senior, who had been a standout defender on the soccer team and kicker for the football team in 2015, suffered injuries that sidelined him all fall. Now he’s back, and hoping to make up for lost time.
“It was almost a year ago to the day,” said Roth. “We had been counting on him to be a key part of our defense, and he was in a car accident up north. We’re glad he’s back. He’s a leader on the team and a good player.”
Another player who can help the Eagles on defense, or really anywhere they need him, is returning All-Conference performer Luis Padilla. Now a senior, Padilla has played pretty much everywhere for the Eagles during his career.
“Last year, we used him some at midfield and forward, and he was able to put a few into the net,” said Roth. “We might see more of that this season, since we have to replace a couple of scorers.”
An important player up front is Hernán Garcia, who came off the bench last year and was Central’s fourth-leading scorer, providing instant offense for the Eagles.
“He’s ambidextrous, so he can contribute from either side of the field,” said Roth. “We’re counting on him to contribute even more this season.”
Roth said that there is an “ongoing battle” to fill the vacancy at keeper, and that two of the players involved are also in the mix to fill spots on the Eagles’ defense.
“In early August, no positions are set in stone,” he said. “We’ve had a few practices, and last weekend, we went down to Mount Tabor and took part in three scrimmages. We’re still trying to figure out the scheme that works best for us.”
At Tabor, Central was one of several teams that scrimmaged against other teams from around the region. Many of the teams present were 3A and 4A schools, and Roth admitted that his team “took some lumps” against Davie County, Tabor, and Ledford, the three teams that the Eagles were paired with.
“We were more concerned with seeing where we stood than we were with the score,” said Roth. “We saw some things we needed to work on. We’ll be scrimmaging again this weekend at Fred T. Foard before we start the season on Monday.”
Central’s first official match will be at home against Hibriten on Aug. 14. The Eagles will play eight non-conference matches before WPAC action starts on Sept. 13 against newcomer Atkins. The Camels and Walkertown are joining the league after stepping up from the Northwest 1A, while South Stokes has dropped to the 1A ranks and taken their place in that conference.
“We played Walkertown last year and tied them, one day after playing Forbush,” said Roth. “They’re good, and North Surry made great strides last year, and of course, Forbush is the team on top.”
Central tied the Falcons for the WPAC title two seasons ago, but lost two one-goal matches to them last fall, when Forbush went 24-1-1 and spent much of the season as the state’s top-ranked 2A team. Roth still considers them the team to beat, but said that he expects challenges from several schools in the conference.
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” he said.
Expect to see Surry Central in its normal place, right in the middle of the battle for league supremacy.
Reach John via Twitter at @johncate73.