The 2020 season is underway for the Junction City High School Blue Jays soccer team as they held their annual Blue-White Scrimmage Wednesday inside Al Simpler Stadium. The game featured the varsity team squaring off against the junior varsity squad in their first game-like exercise of the season.
The varsity team took the 9-0 victory over the junior varsity team with seven points scored in the second 30-minute half.
“This is something that we did expect to happen,” head coach Allan McFarland said. “Our JV was a little low with subs tonight — few people are injured and weren't able to be here tonight. But, they put in, did a great effort and there is a difference.
“The varsity guys … a lot of upperclassmen, people have experienced and on that JV and we have kids who were playing for the first year here and some freshmen,” he added. “But, it was the result we expected. Our varsity played pretty well and got some good opportunities to put some in the back of the net.”
The varsity team is heavy with returners this season, each with a taste of victory, defeat and close ties from last year.
“We lost four seniors last year, and every single returner from last year has varsity experience,” McFarland said. “So, only three or four of our new kids are coming in, not with this experience. It shows that our guys know how to play, they know how to be in this environment and hopefully, from some of those close games last year, with this experience we can come back and win some of those close ones. And that's what we're looking to do this year.”
McFarland said overall he was pleased with the teams performance on the night. He did say the team started slow and said the team was “a little nervous” during the opening minutes of the game.
“Once we finally settled down, we started pressuring them a little bit more, started connecting a few passes,” he said. “That's when we started to see some good things happen for us. So obviously, didn't like to see us start slow. I think I would have liked to see us pressure them a little bit harder from the start. Good things though once we got going.”
The team overcame the first-game jitters and started spreading out along the field competing passes across the field and working their way toward the goal. Several times the team jammed up along the sidelines forcing the ball to be kicked backwards. That’s OK according to McFarland who encourages his players to adjust their play and kick back to defenders to help reset the field to create opportunities.
“As the players get a little bit older they get more comfortable on the ball,” he said. “One thing I've told our guys is, ‘It’s okay if we want to play back to one of the defenders. Because those defenders should be experienced enough where they can get the ball, pick their head up and find a pass. I never want to pass back to the goalie, but I'm fine with passing back to our defenders because they're capable of picking their heads up and finding passes as we move forward, once we go backwards.’”
The Blue-White Scrimmage is an opportunity for the players, especially those new to the program, to experience the game time feel at the varsity level. The night also allows players to get their mind right for the first competition next Tuesday against Salina Central by learning when and where the team warms up, what songs will be played to help time events and how the team shifts into game mode before the whistle blows, McFarland said.
“Everything that we did up until actually playing the opponent is gonna be the exact same,” he said. “So they know what to expect. Once the ref blows the whistle, then it's a different opponent, and we have to pick it up another notch.”
The scoring was led by senior Rafael “Chino” Aizprua-Medina with two goals. Faybien Michael, Ray Santiago-Flores, Yani Mejia-Peraza, Mauro Gonzalez, Zane Khoury, Brennan Fisher and Riley Clemons each scored one goal apiece.
Santiago-Flores’ goal came 30-seconds into the second half on a breakaway to give the varsity team the 3-0 lead.
First touch of the ball Tuesday is slated for 6:15 p.m. at Al Simpler Stadium in the teams first of three home games to start the season.