Numbers have been forefront on the mind of veteran Community School boys' soccer coach Richard Whitelaw in recent years.
They have usually been positive numbers that have demonstrated the strength of one of Idaho's premier soccer programs based in Sun Valley.
For instance, Whitelaw (202-88-29) surpassed the 200-victory mark during last fall's 5-9-4 Cutthroat campaign and now the native New Zealander is starting his 19th season coaching The Community School.
He guided Cutthroat boys to a remarkable eight state tournament berths in nine years ending in 2007. The Cutthroats were 17-1-1 in 2007.
Whitelaw has been proud of a series of skilled Sun Valley goal scorers who have climbed the school's all-time list—ending with the team's top goal scorer the past two years Tanner Flanigan (58 career goals).
Nevertheless the knowledgeable coach with Liverpool on the chest of his soccer jersey isn't thrilled with the numbers he has been working with the past two seasons. Turnout numbers, the total kids he has been coaching, have been going backwards, and that's not good.
For 2010, let's say 17, or a handful more than the 11 needed to play. It's the lowest-ever turnout for Whitelaw.
Said Whitelaw, "Our first concern is lack of numbers. If there are any injuries or lack of available players, we could be in big trouble. It's a challenge, though, and I like a challenge.
"We have a good nucleus of players. The guys are into it. They are very positive and enthusiastic."
Flanigan, last year's only All-League selection from Sun Valley, has graduated after four outstanding years. "I'm not sure where we're going to get our goals," said Whitelaw about a Sun Valley program that tallied only 31 goals in 17 games in 2008 and made 32 goals in 18 games last fall.
Preventing goals might be the Cutthroat ticket to success in the tough High Desert Soccer Conference. The team has an outstanding goalkeeper in junior Tom Crosby.
"Tom could be the top goalkeeper in the league. He should get lots of work this year," said Whitelaw.
Junior Colin Waycott played every minute of every game last fall as the stopper and will return to anchor the middle of the defense. His fellow defenders are still an open question as the 15-game season debuts Monday, Aug. 23 at Filer.
"We'll plug in the gaps," Whitelaw said about the defenders.
He added, "We have a very strong class of juniors this year and some promising sophomores."
Midfielders for Whitelaw and assistant coaches Hannes Thum and Bob Brock include seniors Anthony Martin (3 goals last year) and senior John Chrysikopoulos, junior Tim Kanellitsas plus freshmen Gray David and Joel Otzoy.
Junior Cassidy Carson (3 goals) is bouncing back from an ankle injury and will be warmly welcomed to the mix. Players up front include junior Cooper Hanley and sophomores Ben Kanellitsas and Cameron Jenner.
Rounding out the squad are senior Dane Inman and junior Eric Runkel along with sophomores Calder Zarkos, Charlie Harder, Logan Shipley and Zach Lindahl.
Gooding (15-2-1) won its first-ever State 3A soccer championship last October by 1-0 score over Teton of Driggs. Another High Desert power, the Bliss Bears (16-2-0), won their first league title since 2006 en route to the state consolation championship by a 3-2 score over Payette.
"Bliss has lost all of its starters, so I can see Gooding and Wendell fighting it out for the league title this year," said Whitelaw.
Whether the Cutthroats can sneak in and grab one of the two automatic High Desert berths to the Oct. 23-25 State 3A tournament in Twin Falls will depend largely on how the defense holds up, and where the team's scoring comes from.
For the moment, Whitelaw cautioned, "I've just got to make sure we have enough bodies."
So the Cutthroats, short in numbers, have postponed their scheduled Aug. 21 season debut at Twin Falls so they can focus on league tests with Filer and Wendell next week.