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High School Boys Soccer: Saxony Lutheran hopes to continue district-title streak

For the past five seasons, no one has knocked off the Saxony
Lutheran boys soccer team as Class 1 District 1 Champions. The Crusaders, who
enter their second season with Chris Crawford at the helm, hope to continue
that streak this year.

Saxony fell to eventual state runner-ups Principia 1-0 in the
quarterfinals to finish the 2018 season 7-9-1 overall in Crawford’s first
season. The Crusaders reached state for the first time in school history the
year before.

“We are not necessarily focusing on that result as much as we are
focusing on the way we want to play,” Coach Crawford said. “Part of that is the
way we want to play to be able to get to that final four. Every season I watch
every loss that we have and evaluate why we lost, and one of the things was our
team chemistry wasn’t very good. You would see on film where a mistake would be
made and there would be people pointing fingers.”

Coach Crawford continued to say when players compete against a
quality team like Principia that there can’t be inner conflict with the team.
Crawford did however say he felt like his players looked like a team during
their final game.

Team chemistry has been one of the major focuses this offseason as
well as making sure each player is comfortable with the new standards the
coaching staff has set in place. Crawford already holds his players to a pretty
high standard, but he wants to make sure they can hold each other accountable.

Saxony graduated its top three goal scorers from last season, which
were Trevor Ochs (11), Micah Mirly (seven) and Zach Meyr (five).

Returning as the leading scorer from last year’s team is junior
Paul Adams, who has been selected as one of Saxony’s four team captains. He
produced three goals last year and tied for the most assists with Ochs at five.

Fellow junior Quinn Steffens tied Adams in goals last year with
three, while coming up with three assists of his own. Steffens has also been
named a team captain for this season.

The other two team captains for the Crusaders are seniors Ty Miller
and Garrett Richey, who each return as full-time starters. Miller scored two
goals and dished out three assists while Richey scored a goal.

“One of the big things I changed this year was in the past we would
vote on our captains two weeks into the season,” Crawford said. “The more that
I read and the more that I interacted with other coaches at colleges, [I
learned that] leadership is a skill. A lot of people aren’t naturally leaders,
so we had people nominated as a captain.”

Players had to get a certain number of nominations before they
filled out an application and were then interviewed by the coaching staff to
decide who would become a team captain.

After Adams, Miller, Richey and Steffens were selected as captains,
the coaches had a meeting with them each week after and went through a book
about leadership skills.

“I think we had good leaders on our team last year, but I think it
was more they were good leaders in certain areas and not an overall leader,”
Coach Crawford said. “I’m trying to get our leaders to be that so they realize,
‘Hey, this person might need this or this person might need that.’ They need to
be more perceptive to how their teammates are, and if that is coming from those
guys everybody else will follow.”

Coach Crawford makes an effort to have a relationship with each of
his players, but he enjoyed getting to spend more times with his four captains
to see what they had to say.

Last season, Crawford noticed his players “talk the big talk” about
advancing to the final four again, but their actions didn’t show they wanted to

“I’ve seen they’re extremely driven this year,” Coach Crawford
said. “As a coach, I want them to do well athletically and grow as people, so
the end result matters to me but it doesn’t matter as much to me as it matters
to them. Their last season at Saxony is what people are going to remember. I
haven’t seen this group of kids more driven since I’ve been here.”

On top of Saxony losing its top three scorers from last season, the
team also lost its starting goalkeeper Christopher Palmer. He recorded six
shutouts and 78 saves in 12 starts.

Hoping to take over as the starting goalkeeper this season is
senior Matt Wydra, who played in six games with four starts. Wydra didn’t
record a shutout, but he did come up with 22 saves in his limited time.

Helping defend the goal as one of the team’s center backs with
Richey will be freshman Paul Kauffman, while players like freshman Max Richey,
senior Andrew Hyatt, freshman Landon Ochs will fill the outside.

Nick McNeal covers high school sports, college sports and community events for The Cash-Book Journal. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in multimedia journalism and has lived in Cape Girardeau County for the past five years. He can be reached at cbjsports@socket. net.

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