As the only Scott County High School boys’ soccer player with any varsity experience, junior goalkeeper Logan Jean has unique awareness and an up-close vantage point to assess the Cardinals’ realistic aspirations for the first season of a new era.
When pressed for a prediction, Jean kept his vision modest.
“Hopefully get a couple of wins, maybe three or four, not many more,” Jean said.
The netminder’s new coach, Willie Wilson, who comes to the Cardinals with more than two decades of surveying the sideline, wasn’t shy about labeling Jean’s shot-in-the-dark a mite optimistic.
“It’s such a good, positive group,” Wilson said. “We talked at the beginning of year, ‘Guys, realistically, we may not win a game all year. We may come up and nick a few here and there, may pull out a few ties, but it’s OK.’ I said, ‘I want to be here, you want to be here, and we’re going to get better.’”
Scott County is the program that made it to the 11th Region tournament in 2017 and 2018, in name only.
This year’s entire senior class of last year’s Cards, save one, migrated a mile or two up the road to become Warhawks at Great Crossing.
When the programs meet Tuesday to simultaneously launch their seasons and their rivalry, there’s a strong chance the expansion team will dole out hard lessons to the established enterprise.
Wilson’s message: Don’t worry, and stay the course, which seems to resonate with his young side.
“One of the good or bad things, blessing and a curse, is you’ve got guys that have never played before, so they don’t know how hard they’re about to get hit,” Wilson said. “I know how hard they’re about to get hit, but they don’t.”
The coach continued with the good news/bad news example.
“So it’s going to get hard,” Wilson said. “But once they survive that first hit, they’re going to get a lot more playing time than their counterparts at other places that might not see the field until their junior year. They’re going to see it out of the gate.”
Joseph Siler is the lone SC senior. Jean, who saw spot starting time while then-Cardinals goalie Seth Quackenbush was injured last season, headlines a group of four juniors.
This year’s total lineup of 17 allows for only six substitutes and won’t permit a junior varsity schedule.
“It’s going to be a drastic learning curve, but I think it’s going to be a positive one,” Wilson said. “It’s focusing on the things that we can. Wins and losses right now, you hate to lose, but you’ve got to keep sight of what’s what, build a foundation and get set.”
Part of that scenario is getting everyone accustomed to Wilson’s style. A few players are familiar from having played for him in his three years as Scott County Middle School coach.
Wilson also led the Woodford County varsity from 1997 to 2010.
“It’s more defense-based,” said sophomore Nick Sparks, a captain and a center back. “Go wide, play to the corners, cross it in, get what you can done.”
Defenders will be involved in the offense out of the 4-4-2 arrangement out of necessity, which means there won’t be much standing around for the 80 minutes of regulation time.
“We’re going to attack from the wings,” Wilson said. “The risk of that is we’re going to have to be in immaculate shape, because with 17 (players), you don’t have subs, and guys are going to have to be running, covering a lot of ground.”
Eight sophomores and four freshmen dominate the roster.
Again, Wilson spins that positively on two fronts.
“A lot of guys will be thrust into leadership roles that a year ago never would have dreamed of being in one, and now they are,” he said. “And there aren’t a lot of bad habits. They don’t know what they don’t know.”
Tuesday’s measuring stick game will be a good lesson for the Cardinals beyond the bottom line.
This year’s Scott County seniors were freshmen when Nick Maxwell took over an up-and-down program and built both the numbers and expectations markedly higher before all involved departed for Great Crossing.
“They’ve had a very positive program here for years,” Wilson said. “The coaches did a great job establishing it. It’s just going to be taking it in a new direction.”
The same, old, challenging 42nd District schedule, including traditional powers Henry Clay, Lafayette and Lexington Catholic, will provide on-the-job training that Wilson’s players probably can’t comprehend until they see it at full speed.
“We have nothing to lose,” the coach said. “We have nothing to do but gain stuff. People look and say we didn’t even have enough for a JV team. Whatever we earn is ours.”
Scott County boys’ soccer
Braeden (Elijah) Barnes
13 vs. Great Crossing, 7:30 p.m.
20 vs. Woodford County, 6:30 p.m.
24 vs. Conner, 5:30 p.m.
27 vs. Henry Clay, 6:30 p.m.
29 at Franklin County, 7:30 p.m.
31 vs. Campbell County, 11 a.m.
3 at Great Crossing, 7:30 p.m.
5 at Tates Creek, 7:30 p.,m.
10 vs. Lexington Catholic, 6:30 p.m.
12 vs. Southwestern at Mad Ctr, 6 p.m.
14 at Madison Central, 1 p.m.
15 TBA at Madison Central
17 vs. Bryan Station, 6:30 p.m.
19 at Frederick Douglass, 7:30 p.m.
24 at Frankfort, 7:30 p.m.
1 v.s. Lafayette, 6:30 p.m.
3 at Sayre, 5:30 p.m.
Wilson brings a wealth of coaching experience to a team that has precious little background at the varsity level. Patience will be a virtue for everyone involved. Scott County hasn’t backed off from its traditionally brutal 11th Region and 42nd District schedule. This season will be a baptism by fire, but the Cards should improve from the experience and be poised to surprise a few teams this year and be a force down the road.
“There aren’t a lot of bad habits. They don’t know what they don’t know.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.