BLHS to open with tough stretch
The regular season starts this week for the Basehor-Linwood High School soccer team and the Bobcats won't have to wait long to see how they stack up against some of the area's best teams.
In the next five days they will play road games at De Soto and Mill Valley, two of the toughest opponents they'll face before the playoffs.
In years past the Bobcats might not have wanted to open the season with two games like that, but with the talent that this year's squad has, it's looked at as a valuable opportunity.
"You've got to face the good teams eventually," BLHS coach Kevin Vincent said. "The sooner we play them, the sooner we know where we stand. It will also be good because it will keep the kids grounded; it will show them that there's other teams out there with talent."
That's certainly true of De Soto, a young squad that finished 9-9 last year and are one of the few teams that will return a scoring tandem nearly as potent as Bobcats' forwards Austin Knipp and Stephen Millison. Knipp and Millison combined for 34 goals last season, while the Wildcats' Brady Seaman and Zach England combined for 33.
Seaman was named second team all-state last year as a junior after scoring 14 goals. England didn't garner any all-state honors, but that might have been because he was just a sophomore. The diminutive star scored 19 goals and De Soto coach Darren Erpelding said he considers England one of the top three players in class 4A.
The Bobcats face the De Soto on Friday and things won't get much easier the following Monday when they head to Mill Valley. The Jaguars tied Bonner Springs and Lansing for the Kaw Valley League championship last season, going 7-1. They lost leading scorer Brad Huston to graduation, but return another class 5A all-state player in Josh Grimes. As the biggest school in the KVL, Mill Valley is also likely to have a host of talented newcomers this year.
Still, there's plenty of reasons to believe that the Bobcats can compete with both the Wildcats and the Jaguars. BLHS has its own all-state star in Knipp, and an all-league defender in Sam Seaman. The Bobcats also have a number of returning starters who have looked very strong in preseason practices, like midfielders Ryan Sirridge and Tanner Bowers, and defender Mitch Mallon.
"There's so many who worked really hard this summer," Vincent said. "There's lots who are ready for breakout seasons."
The Bobcats also start this season with plenty of motivation, the heartbreaking overtime playoff loss to Maranatha still fresh in their memories. Maranatha went on to take third in the state last year, with few teams giving them as stiff a challenge as BLHS.
"Almost all the players at Maranatha had experience in big games and we didn't," Vincent said. "Playing them so close has given us a lot of confidence."
Still, Vincent cautioned that it was important for his players to stay grounded and not let that confidence become cockiness. Although he agreed there was plenty to be excited about this season, he noted that the Bobcats hadn't proved anything yet. They can start proving themselves this week.
Basehor-Linwood travels to De Soto on Friday, with the varsity scheduled to start about 6 p.m. On Monday the Bobcats will go to Mill Valley to face the Jaguars at 6 p.m.