Tougher road ahead for WRHS boys? soccer
Dominant in 3A: What?s next in 4A
By JEFF CORDES
Express Staff Writer
Wood River High School boys? soccer was as close to a dynasty as Idaho?s 3A division has seen, playing in the state tournament championship game for six straight years from 1998-2003 and winning three state titles.
But that was then and 2004 is now?with Wood River moving up a classification to 4A and facing a tough road even to make the State 4A tournament Oct. 28 in Boise. Indeed, the Wolverines might be the third-best team in their four-team league.
Not in the mind of first-year varsity coach Farrell Swain. ?Our goal is to get back to state. The kids think they can handle 4A. We have a great group of seniors who are fully the leaders of the team. They have to step up, but I think they are ready,? she said.
Swain, 24, is a former high school All-American girls? soccer player in Connecticut. She coached the Wolverine junior varsity the last two years. Swain is very positive about her 20 players, including nine seniors, eight juniors and three sophomores.
There is no question in her mind that she?s the person to lead Wood River, although Swain is one of a handful of women coaching a boys? varsity team in the state of Idaho. Like former coach Brian Daluiso (96-24-11 in seven years), she?s a taskmaster.
Swain said, ?The last two years Brian and I would switch off, alternating days coaching the boys in pre-season. Really, I think the kids relate to me more on an age basis than on gender. They see me on the same level because I?m closer to their age.?
It?s a tough act to follow but 2004 co-captains Sagen Howard and Ted Dankanyin are excellent leaders.
Last year?s State 3A king Wood River (19-3-1) won its final 10 games last fall. Daluiso?s final Hailey squad toppled two-time defending State 3A king Payette 3-2 in double overtime, then breezed past Middleton and The Community School of Sun Valley 4-1.
Wood River set school records for most wins and most goals (120). The Wolverines graduated six seniors including top scorer Maicol Corrales (34 goals, 54 career), Chase Cleveland (17 goals), K.C. Rivera (13) and Tate Mills (11). Sweeper Matt Hansen was tough on defense (29 goals in 23 games).
To supply some of the lost offense, Swain thought she could count on senior striker Shane Cordeau (14 goals), a fleet and shifty scorer who tallied the game winner against Payette last October. But Cordeau is out indefinitely with a skiing-related knee injury. His loss transforms the team.
Originally, Swain had Cordeau paired up front with talented junior Audie McCann in Wood River?s 4-4-2 alignment?and she had seniors Sagen Howard as stopper and Willie Meyers as sweeper in the all-important defensive four-back system.
With Cordeau out, Meyers (8 goals) will join McCann in the forward position for Hailey. Howard becomes the sweeper, with junior Garrett Leo as the stopper, senior Reno Christino as right outside back and sophomore Cory Rutkowski as left outside back.
Sturdy outside back Dixon Mooseau, a junior, hasn?t practiced yet because he?s been skiing in New Zealand, but Swain is counting on him.
Former Community School player McCann, at forward, will feel more scoring pressure with Cordeau out. McCann went away to prep school in Texas last year to play soccer.
Swain said, ?Audie is fast. He?s very technical and has soccer smarts and vision. Willie gets it done, too. He floats around and finds the ball. He can play anywhere on the field.?
Regarding the defense, Swain has tremendous confidence in the leadership of Howard, who seems to win every head ball and is knowledgeable.
Wood River?s 4-4-2 includes a withdrawn forward, who becomes the offensive center midfielder. Senior Byron Epp (7 goals) will play that position. Dankanyin is the defensive center midfielder. Junior Bryce Newcomb is the outside right midfielder and senior Levi Crandall is the left mid.
The goalkeeper is Kristian Timmons, a senior who backstopped Wood River to the 2003 state title.
Manuel Serrato (F) is the other senior. Juniors include Spencer Cordovano (F), Michael Connor (F), Jesus Delacruz (F) and Jesse Stark (goalkeeper). The two other sophomores are Carl Jablonski (F) and Taylor Sundali (outside MF/F).
The new junior varsity coach is Matt Phillips, former head coach for Kent Denver in Colorado. Another 20 boys are due to play junior varsity.
Wood River will be playing home-and-home series with district foes Burley, Jerome and Minico to help determine the district?s one representative to the State 4A tournament.
Burley, a 2-0 winner over Wood River last season, is an established program under coach Wes Nyblade. The Bobcats had five seniors and 10 juniors on last year?s 11-5-3 squad that beat Jerome 2-1 for the district title and then won the State 4A consolation championship 3-2 over Moscow.
Although Minico tends to struggle in soccer, Jerome is no slouch. The Tigers (13-5) lost to Kuna 2-0 in a state tournament play-in game in 2003.
Kuna, the third seed out of southwestern Idaho, pulled the ultimate shocker by nipping Madison 4-3 and Vallivue 3-2 (OT) and snapping the 73-game unbeaten streak of three-time defending champion Sandpoint (19-1-1) in the championship game.
Wood River opens its 13-game season Saturday, Aug. 28 at home against Twin Falls. The Wolverines were 1-0-1 against the Bruins last season. ?Twin Falls is a 5A team and will be a good test for us,? said Swain.
A new start for Cutthroat boys
Community School boys? soccer coach Richard Whitelaw enjoyed calling last year?s State 3A tournament runner-up team ?The Little Engine that Could,? because of its blue-collar work ethic and overachieving results.
Last year?s Cutthroats were 13-4-2 and nearly unbeatable at home. Their only losses all season came to State 3A champion Wood River, including 4-1 in the state title game. Thrilling 4-2 wins over Teton and 4-3 (OT) over Bonners Ferry got them there at state.
If 13th-year coach Whitelaw (141-54-14 overall, 17-9 at state) liked last year?s hard-working squad, he?ll probably have similar feelings about the 36-player squad he has welcomed in 2004. He said, ?We don?t have a lot of natural talent. It?s a blue-collar team like last year. They work hard.?
Only two starters return, giving The Community School a new start after finishes of second, third and fourth in the state tournament from 2001-03. But the returning starters are both seniors, good ones, and they are co-captains of the 2004 Cutthroats.
Forward Bobby Flanigan (a second-leading 18 goals last year, 25 career) will start up front with a talented freshman, Travis Stone. They?ll try to juice up an offense that scored only 55 goals last year, after putting 267 goals in the net the previous two autumns.
Whitelaw said, ?Bobby has plenty of skills up front. Travis has made a big impression?he reminds me a little of (all-time top Cutthroat scorer) Josh Sta-nek. Travis might benefit from everyone focusing on Bobby up front.?
The other returning starter and co-captain is senior Reed Boeger, the sweeper who will mold the defense in front of first-year goalkeeper Regan O?Reilly, a talented sophomore.
Boeger and players like senior defender Connor Wade will have big shoes to fill, trying to rebuild a defense that was capable and stingy with Ash Higgins and Taylor Rothgeb last fall.
Other seniors are A.J. Beesley (midfield), Alex Dembergh (forward), Kyle Koski (midfield) and Ben Roth (defense). The juniors are Ross Campbell (de-fense), Max Danielson (defense), Wes Flanigan (midfield) and Kevin Wade (midfield).
Besides goalkeeper O?Reilly, other sophomores are Ryon Campbell (midfield), Mikey Matteson, Alden Remington (midfield) and Caleb Sonneland (mid-field).
Coach Whitelaw, a midfielder himself, knows the importance of the position so he?s glad to have a freshman like Connor Brown back there. ?Connor is a good little player. He does the right things,? the coach said.
Besides the two freshmen Connor Brown and Travis Stone who will make an immediate impact, Whitelaw has welcomed 14 other ninth graders.
They are Cody Boeger, Quinn Baser, Trevor Boley, Wiley Chubb, John Cortese, Christian Dallago, Cody Edison, Jeff Gaecke, Max Harris, Spencer Har-ris, Quade Koffler, Rafael Pena, McClain Porter and Mac Whittington.
Returning as assistant/junior varsity coach is Phil Hess, while Bob Brock as always is coach emeritus.
Whitelaw commented that there will be more parity in the Fourth District 3A league this year because Wood River has moved up to 4A. ?It will be tighter. There won?t be one team more dominant than the others,? he said.
The seven-team league will send two automatic qualifiers to the State 3A tournament Oct. 28 in Boise, and a third team could qualify in a playoff. In all, there will be 12 league games, with home-and-home all counting.
Non-conference varsity games at the end of the 14-game season will be against Twin Falls (Oct. 9, there) and home against Wood River (Oct. 14). The teams with the best league records will host Fourth District 3A tourney games starting Monday, Oct. 18.