|Exceeding Expectations: Potter and Rodgers helping Wildcats to best season in school history|
|Bobby "Butch" Burney | News-Telegram Sports Editor|
March 11, 2006 - Jeremy Potter and Chris Rodgers weren't exactly mysteries to Sulphur Springs soccer coach Andy Holt, but what he has seen from them isn't what he expected.
Potter, senior goal keeper for the Wildcats, and Rodgers, senior forward, have exceeded Holt's expectations, and they are two of the reasons the Wildcats are on the verge of their best season in school history.
The Cats are 18-3 overall and with four games remaining in the regular season (including this afternoon at Pleasant Grove), they have a great chance at breaking the 20-win plateau for the second consecutive year.
If they do, it will be because of the contributions of Potter and Rodgers.
Holt remembers when, because of an injury to the starting keeper, he had to insert Potter into the line-up two years ago when he was a sophomore and had played goalie for just one season.
"We had an injury in a tournament, and I asked him if he was ready," Holt recalled. "He said, 'Yeah,' but he didn't look ready. He went in there, though, and kept a shutout during that game and kept on starting for us in district.
"He came through again last year, starting every game and has done an outstanding job for us. When he's back there, everybody feels pretty safe. He does a lot of the little things that people don't see. He does a good job of coming off his line and winning balls, and that results in the other team not having a shot."
And he does it with a handicap of sorts. Potter was born with a misshapen right hand, though you couldn't tell it by the results.
"It's incredible that he is able to do what he does," said Holt. "He's an incredible guy."
Holt said last season Potter had the most shutouts the team's ever recorded in a season by a keeper while being named First Team All-District. "And this year he hasn't given up many goals. Any goals we've given up in district have almost all been by the back-up. He leads the defense back there as one of our captains and does a great job," Holt said.
Potter is relishing the team's success this season, but also remembers being asked to go into his first varsity game two years ago.
"I was nervous. I didn't know exactly what it was going to be like, but it was fun. From there, it just progressed," he said, adding that playing the position can be "boring," which he blames on the Wildcats' outstanding defense.
"I like playing goalie, but sometimes it gets a little boring down there and I want to do something else. But, it's my job," he added.
His future job will be as a dentist, Potter said. He is enrolled in the health career class at SSHS, and he may try to walk on at Tyler Junior College next year while taking classes to get him ready for dental school.
Rodgers is on the opposite end of the field from Potter. While Potter is stopping shots on his goal, Rodgers is attacking the goal at the other end.
It's paid off. He leads the team with 24 goals after being used mostly as a midfielder last year when he scored five goals and was named Honorable Mention All-District
"This year, he's taken on the role of scoring goals for us, and he's done a good job of that," the coach said. "He's done a great job of finding the back of the net, and that's something I think he's been able to do his whole life.
"That's big for us, because we haven't been able to score in the past like we have this year. We've been able to finish it this year, and that's a big advantage for us."
Holt knew Rodgers was good offensively, but didn't realize he would have a shot at 30 goals before the season is through.
"I didn't know for sure how many he would get, but I didn't think he would score 20," he explained. "Over 20 is a lot of goals. I thought he would score for us and score some key goals for us, and he's done that."
It's not that Holt underestimated Rodgers, because the senior didn't know if he could do it either.
"I played more of a midfield last year when we had a lot of seniors playing for us, so I stepped in when I had to. It's a lot different this year," Rodgers said. "I'm in better shape and getting more playing time at forward, and I'm liking it a lot.
"I didn't think I could get over 20, but once the first few games are past, I started thinking positively about it. The key is to get open and look for the ball - that's about it."