|Wildcats hope to duplicate last year's success|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
Jan. 10, 2006 - Duplicating the success of last season's team will be difficult for the Sulphur Springs Wildcats, but if the preseason soccer scrimmages are an indication, then this year's squad may surprise some doubters.
The Wildcats won a school-record 20 games last year, including 14 in a row, went unbeaten in district play and were crowned 13-4A champs.
But, the Wildcats have already twice defeated Greenville, a regional semifinalist last year, and tied Mesquite Poteet in preseason scrimmages.
"Poteet and Greenville are both ranked in the region, and it's encouraging for us to compete with those guys and actually beat them," said SSHS head coach Andy Holt. "I hope we can build on it and move forward as the year progresses."
The Wildcats open the season Friday at the Athens tournament.
Holt, who has been Coach of the Year in the district for the last three seasons, will have to rebuild the defense, which is always the backbone of his teams.
The district's Co-Defensive MVPs, John Fox and David Miranda, both graduated, as did defender Hunter Potts.
To help make up for the losses, Holt is moving forward Wilfredo Larios to defense, and is expecting good things from several players who played varsity last year like Graham Northcutt at sweeper, Chad Rocker, Colton Wilks, Cole Lancaster and Jon Holt at fullbacks.
"We lost three starting defenders from last year," Holt explained. "I like to have a good defense, that's where you start from. If they don't score, you can't lose. We're trying to rebuild that right now because we lost so many seniors.
"We have three spots that were vacated, so we're trying to find who can play at those positions. So far, everybody has looked pretty good, so a lot of guys may get to play, and we'll rotate them in and out and see if one of them becomes a dominant player."
The Wildcats are bankrupt in returning defenders. First Team All-District goal keeper Jeremy Potter is back after allowing just six district goals in 14 games last season, and senior Spenser Daniel was a First Team All-District pick as well after scoring 11 goals.
Offensively, the Wildcats will have junior Blake Holly, the returning Co-Offensive MVP of the district, and his twin brother, Brent Holly, a First Team midfielder, back from last season. Together, they scored 14 goals and accounted for seven assists in 2005.
Also, Chris Rodgers, a part-time starter at forward, scored five goals last season and returns along with Rolando Larios, who had four goals and two assists.
"Right now, we're looking really good in the middle with Rolando and Blake Holly," Holt said. "Those guys are very good, and Brent Holly is playing outside mid, so our midfield is strong."
The Wildcats will only have about two weeks of pre-district matches before they go up against Mount Pleasant, their top rival, on Jan. 31.
"Mount Pleasant is strong, they'll be solid in the back. If they can find ways to score goals, they'll be tough to beat," Holt said, "and Paris should be good with a lot of young guys back."
But, Holt believes the other District 13-4A teams will also find a strong Wildcat squad.