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Returning core looking to propel Peru boys' soccer

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

After what could be described as a disappointing 2015 season, some saw the boys’ soccer team at Peru heading in the same direction after a good start gave way to a losing streak in the middle of the 2016 campaign.

Instead, the Tigers finished with a flourish, winning three-straight matches, including a pair over Maconaquah, to finish just under .500 for the year.

With the bulk of the team returning for the 2017 season, the biggest change will be that in the coaches’ box as Nate Campbell takes over as head coach this season.

Campbell said the group, which was light on upperclassmen a year ago, competed very well at both ends of the season.

“We were pretty impressed with what they did last year,” Campbell said. “They started off 3-0 before they hit a slump midseason.

“They won three of their last five games and won their sectional opener, beating Maconaquah in back-to-back games. The group only lost one senior from last year and we feel the group can build off how they played last year.”

Peru has 15 players returning from the 2016 squad including Gage Douglas, Devin Campbell, Zach Zorn, Andrew Baker, Noah Wiley, Jasper Carter, Logan Stanfield, Matthew Snyder, Braxton Wilhelm, Justin Yoo, Drayden Bretzman, Tristen Minns, Trevon Crowe, Jason Yoo and Josh Adejokun.

Several of the returners were mainstays in the lineup with Crowe, Zorn and Wiley recording multiple goals last year while Stanfield and Campbell added multiple assists, along with Wilhelm returning in goal.

Campbell was pleased with the number of returning players, limiting the amount of spaces that needed to be filled in the starting lineup.

“We have all of our midfield back from last year,” Campbell noted. “We weren’t sure we were going to have Logan back after he injured himself early in the year.

“We were told he wasn’t going to be able to play this year but we’re happy that he was cleared to play. We have guys like Trevon and Zach back and the only spot we have to replace is in defense where Jonah Gray was at.”

The Tigers welcome in Jonah Huppenthal, Matthew Johnson, Adhir Patel, Lucas Fritzman, Isiah Wiley, Nolan Chambers, Kamon Blong, Brayden Bockover and Will Beckman to the team with Campbell knowing a few of the newcomers from their time on the Jr. High teams.

“Jonah played tennis last year but he was someone who I got to coach at the Jr. High level,” Campbell said. “He was a good goalkeeper for us and we’re going to try to work him into the midfield.

“We have a junior in Adhir who we’re trying to use to take over for Jonah in the defense. Among the freshmen, Kamon, who is probably the smallest player we have, is very good with the ball at his feet and we might be able to use him this season.”

While Campbell was a part of the coaching staff last season, this will be his first full season in charge and had already talked to the players about the potential different focus the team would have this year.

“We’ve talked to the guys that things won’t be the same way that they were when coach Gerry (Przybyszewski) was here,” Campbell said. “He had certain ways of doing things and I have certain ways of doing things.

“He did a lot of things very well with this team but there will be some different things happening with this team. We changed the formation a little bit last year and that’s something we’ll stick with at the start of the year.”

Peru’s quick start to 2016 was curtailed by a six-match losing run, a streak Campbell would like to avoid, though he added the competition would be tough once again.

“We feel like we can start off the same way we did last year but there are some very tough teams in middle part of the season,” Campbell pointed out.

“We see some good teams like Eastern and Manchester during that stretch, so that’ll tell us a lot about what we’re made of.”

Peru will also be in a new sectional this year as soccer was split into three classes ahead of the 2017 season.

The Tigers will now feature as a 2A school and will be in a sectional with Maconaquah, Manchester, Tippecanoe Valley, Columbia City and Fort Wayne Concordia Lutheran.

Campbell said the change had come up very little and the coach was fine with that not being a major talking point.

“They’ve only mentioned the sectional in passing,” Campbell said. “Our main focus is looking at each game week-to-week.

“We don’t want them to worry about that because when they start thinking about it, they stop focusing on the next game.”

Campbell added it would take some time for the team to find itself but once it did, he felt they could improve even further on last year’s effort.

“It will take some time for us to figure out exactly who plays well with who and at what position,” Campbell said. “We’ve explained to the guys that just because we put you at forward one day doesn’t mean they’ll be there later.

“We’ll experiment but we’ll try to keep the main core of the team from last year in the same spots and move in the guys that are looking to fill spots. Towards the end of the season, guys will know what jobs and assignments they have and we’ll get there.”