The East Jackson boys’ soccer team fell in their season opener on Monday to top-ten ranked Buford High School, 1-6.
“Buford is a very strong program – number four in state – so this is one of those chances for our guys to see an awesome team in action,” said Eagle head coach Chris Cooley. “Actually we played strongly and the scoreline was not representative of the balance of play.”
Aldo Martinez scored the Eagles lone goal in the second half, assisted by Luis Ponce.
Today, the Eagles will look for different results when they host region opponent East Hall, at 7:30 p.m.
Last season, the Eagles made school history as the first team to advance to the state finals since EJCHS opened in 2007. The 9-9-1 Eagles ended their 2012 season with a tough loss to a top-ten ranked Calhoun team.
Cooley hopes that his 2013 squad builds on that success.
“(This year) we are less concerned with our overall record, than with the experience the boys gain and how they perform in region games,” said Cooley. “Going to state competition adds several weeks to the regular season, so we are preparing for the long haul.”
In preparation for state, the Eagles will take on three top-ten ranked teams (Buford, East Hall and Dawson County) in their first three games.
Cooley feels that a high number of returning seniors will provide his squad with strength and experience down the stretch.
Although starting positions are yet to be finalized, Cooley expects to see Luis Ponce and Yeng Xiong show strength in the center of the field.
He also expects Austin Lumpkin and Jonathan Zarco to lead the charge up front and to score some goals this season.
Cooley also noted new goalkeeper Davante Gresham as capable and confident, and pointed to freshman Aldo Martinez as an up-and-coming striker.
Cooley plans to emphasize the junior varsity program to help build the program up for future Eagle players. The JV Eagles will play an extended number of games and will add a number of eighth graders to their lineup.
The Eagles began their season on Feb. 5 with a scrimmage game against White County High School.
Austin Lumpkin put the first point of the game on the board with a quick chip-shot past the White County goal keeper at the 10-minute mark.
Davante Gresham held the Warriors scoring attack off, ending the first half with a 1-0 Eagle lead.
After another goal by Lumpkin and one from Jonathan Zarco, the Eagles went up 3-0 with time running down.
White County rallied to score two goals after switching their best players to offense, but East Jackson held off the charge to defeat the Warriors 3-2.
Monday, the East Jackson girls’ soccer team dropped its first game of the season to Buford 0-10.
Today, the Lady Eagles will look to fare better against region opponent East Hall.
Last season, the East Jackson girls’ soccer team was locked out of the region 8-AA playoffs after finishing fifth in its sub-region due to tiebreakers. Although they finished the season with a winning 7-6-1 record, the 2012 Lady Eagles’ season met a bitter end.
This season, first-year head coach Ruth Wilson expects different results.
Wilson hopes her team’s dynamic will make a solid impact on the Eagles’ level of play.
“The core of the team has played together for a number of years,” she said. “They all work very well together.”
While the 2013 Eagles may have a great team relationship, Wilson says their greatest weakness is a lack of fundamentals — which is exactly why Wilson is focusing preseason practices on the basics.
The Eagles will return only three seniors to the lineup, including Chelsie Wegesend and Sheena McEachin, both of whom were starters the previous year; and Jasmine Motes. Wilson noted that she was also impressed by the play of freshman standout Angelica Bravo (striker).
While region 8-AA contains a surplus of robust competition, Wilson has made her goals as a first-year coach clear.
“(We want to) win a majority of our region games, and build a solid foundation for a stronger program in the future,” she said.