Other than the uniform colors, the nickname, and the preseason surroundings, not much has changed for the group that now answers to the title of Great Crossing High School boys’ soccer team.
Last season’s junior class of 14 at Scott County High School stayed intact and followed Nick Maxwell to his familiar assignment of coach and guidance counselor at the new school.
In other words, the Warhawks have an experienced nucleus and huge numbers for their inaugural season, one in which they are perhaps the preseason favorite in the 41st District.
“One of the reasons that we do have 14 seniors is that they all came over,” Maxwell said. “They all wanted to stay together, and that says a lot about that group. It’s a group of great kids. It’s a group of hard workers.”
They’re also natural leaders who enter the new era with a chip on their shoulder after falling just shy of a third consecutive trip to the 11th Region tournament in their final voyage as Cardinals.
“They are really setting the tone in training for the new guys,” Maxwell said. “They’re the ones setting the pace, dictating the tone and tempo of training. It’s always good as a coach when you have leaders that will just take that over instead of having to harp on it.”
That maturity was necessary in the first preseason.
When it was time to take the field July 15, the infrastructure around Great Crossing’s new pitch wasn’t complete, which prevented the Warhawks from gaining access.
They have borrowed Georgetown Football Club’s Lisle Road grass facility for morning workouts while moving to the Royal Spring Middle School gymnasium for two or three evening sessions each week.
“It’s been a little different. We haven’t been on turf yet for the new season,” senior Keagan Morrin said.
Players use the gym time to solidify basics and maintain conditioning.
“We’re just trying to get stronger, work on technical stuff, foot skills and stuff like that,” senior Bradyn Johnson said.
“If you can control it on a gym floor, you should be able to control it on turf or grass,” Maxwell added.
Possession and scoring punch were what separated the Warhawks’ previous team from the top-10 likes of Henry Clay and Bryan Station last season.
Great Crossing’s performance in those categories should be significantly improved with experience. Morrin and Johnson emerged as threats in the offensive third a year ago.
Zach Shelton returns as a defensive stalwart, while seniors Ty Martin, C.J. Wittry, Thomas Disney, Jacob and Parker Vanlandingham and juniors Doug Gindling and Trey Dice all are back after seeing at least spot starting time in the past.
“The seniors have good chemistry,” Morrin said. “There are some good underclassmen, a lot of freshmen, but other than that, pretty much everyone’s the same.
“You see the leadership roles come out of the seniors and kind of guide the younger kids, help pull the team together. I think we all work together well and respect each other.”
Brayden Ward and Zach Hamner, both juniors, are poised to take on starting roles, Maxwell said.
Both found the net at the varsity level last fall. Of the 14 different players who scored a 2018 goal at Scott County, 10 are on the Great Crossing roster.
“It helps having 14 guys who have played together their whole lives,” Johnson said. “We stuck together, basically. It should be the same team with a fresh start. New team, new expectations.”
Those plans include winning a new district, featuring Frankfort, Franklin County and Western Hills as rivals.
The Warhawks also hope to sweep their crossover series against the Cardinals, including the season-opener at SC next Tuesday, Aug. 13.
“They’re a young team, but we’ll try stuff out and see how it goes,” Johnson said.
“I know them well enough that I know they’ll show up with intensity and ready to roll,” Maxwell added.
Lexington schools remain on the docket, but other than a preseason friendly against Lafayette, most of the power brokers are gone. Great Crossing will see Bryan Station, Sayre, Lexington Christian and Frederick Douglass from the city.
“It’s not quite the powerhouse schedule I’m used to playing, where you’re playing four or five of the top 12 teams in the state, but I think it’s challenging enough to where it’s going to prepare us for district tournament, and regions when we hopefully move on from there,” Maxwell said.
Great Crossing hopes to christen its new turf for practice on Thursday of this week and square away the logistics in time for its home opener Aug. 20 against LCA.
It has been a waiting game, but Maxwell chose to spin it for his team as a means for growing character.
“The field is pretty much done. It’s everything else that took time,” the coach said. “What we told the guys after our first meeting is it might not be the best pitch, but it is what it is, and we’re going to make do and get to work.”
More than 50 players tried out for the inaugural boys’ soccer team at Great Crossing. Maxwell and assistant coach Zack Adkins kept 46 for varsity and junior varsity.
Those numbers give GCHS a decided edge, to start, if you’re using them to gauge the cross-town rivalry. Maxwell believes that they will balance out soon, however, and that the healthy competition in his own camp si reflective of a promising trend for the sport.
“There’s a lot of talent. Tryouts were the toughest cuts we ever had to make,” Maxwell said. “I think that just shows you what soccer is growing into, in Scott County and in the area. Give it another year and Scott County (High School’s) numbers will continue to increase, and they’ll be right back to where we were last year, in the same boat.”
Great Crossing replaces Woodford County in the 41st District. The Yellow Jackets were the resident powerhouse in recent years, and the Warhawks would love to make a statement in their inaugural push by doing damage in the playoffs.
‘We have high hopes for the season,” Morrin said.
“Win districts, go far in the region and hopefully make it to state,” Johnson summarized.
Great Crossing boys’ soccer
Nick Maxwell (first year program; fourth year overall in district)
8 at Lafayette (exhibition), 8 p.m.
10 vs. Greenwood (exhibition), TBA
13 at Scott County, 7:30 p.m.
15 at Sayre, 6 p.m.
20 vs. Lexington Christian, 8 p.m.
22 at Madison Southern, 8 p.m.
27 vs. Frdederick Douglass, 8 p.m.
29 at Madison Central, 8 p.m.
3 vs. Scott County, 7:30 p.m.
5 at East Jessamine, 8 p.m.
10 vs. Harrison County, 8 p.m.
12 at Bryan Station, 8 p.m.
17 vs. Frankfort, 8 p.m.
21 at DeSales, 2 p.m.
24 vs. Woodford County, 7:45 p.m.
26 at Western Hills, 8 p.m.
1 at Franklin County, 8 p.m.
3 vs. Shelby County, 8 p.m.
The size of the Warhawks’ roster says it all. Great Crossing had more than 50 players try out and kept 46 (combined varsity and JV). Most of the seniors started or saw substantial playing time for Maxwell at Scott County a year ago. Morrin and Johnson provide experience and scoring punch for GCHS, which should have a strong chance to win the 41st District title in its inaugural season.
“One of the reasons that we do have 14 seniors is that they all came over. They all wanted to stay together.”
Kal Oakes can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.