Fourth-year Benton boys soccer coach Bryan George has his squad off to a fast start this season, opening with 10 straight wins before a 2-0 loss to Airline prior to Christmas Break.
The Tigers are 11-2 after a 2-1 loss to undefeated Captain Shreve on Dec. 23. Benton returns to action Monday with a District 1-II game at Minden.
George has built the program up from scratch, going from about 17 players his first year to more than 40 program participants this season. Along the way, he has benefitted from a pair of volunteer assistant coaches and an influx of new talent moving into the school.
“There are four to five seniors that have been here from the beginning,” George said. “They have helped with the transition from where we started to where we are today. They are the ones setting the tone for the underclassmen.”
In the program’s early years, there was no depth to speak of and players would get tired in the late going. Now, not only does George have bodies to give his starters a break, he has talent both on the field and on the bench.
“Every year, we have gotten better as the program has grown,” George said. “We have depth from kids coming up through the program and from a few move-in kids. We have depth to be successful. When someone goes out, we have someone to fill the void without missing a stride.”
Justin Garcia has been an assistant coach from the outset, and John Sabrowski joined the staff this year. Having people with different areas of expertise has helped provide better skill development for individual players and made the team stronger as a whole.
Senior striker Dillon Rogers had 19 goals in the first 11 matches to lead the area, 8 goals ahead of the area’s second-leading scorer.
At the other end of the field, goalkeeper Mitchell Matthews ranks at or near the top of area goalkeepers in the number of saves and the fewest number of goals allowed.
In between, the Tigers are getting excellent play from a host of players
George said the biggest surprise of the season is how well the team has come together with a mixture of those who have moved up within the program and those who have moved into the district.
“I’d say our biggest surprise this season is the team chemistry is far ahead of last year,” George said. “The new kids have added to the chemistry. It’s great to see how kids get along. I’m really impressed with their work ethic.”
The team philosophy is simple: compete every game, get a win on defense, win district and go as far in the playoffs as possible.
“You have to have little steps to achieve big goals,” George said.
“I am blessed to be where I’m at and that we are having a good season so far, but my kids also know that the season is only half over and we have to be a good second half team as well after we get back from break or all we did the first half is for nothing,” George said.
“We have to stay humble in our success, learn from our defeats. My kids are hungry this season and want to do well and it makes it easy to be out there when you are surrounded by great players and two other great coaches. Truly am blessed.”