Only three players graduated from an East Bladen soccer team that won 21 of 23 outings a season ago.
That trio, however, carried responsibility for about half of the Eagles’ 144 goals. Stepping into that responsibility won’t be easy, but head coach Jay Raynor and his 35 prospects are in the process of figuring it out.
East Bladen was scheduled to open the season Monday night at Purnell Swett, and host Scotland County this evening at 6:30 p.m.
West Bladen’s opener is slated for today at Swett, with a Wednesday home test against North Brunswick at 6 p.m. Efforts to reach Knights’ head coach Phil Turnage before press time for contributions to this story were unsuccessful.
“Our fitness is not where it needs to be, and in the system we play, that’s of the utmost importance,” Raynor said.
Seven seniors anchoring the returning nucleus include Pierce Melvin, Dan Tatum, Spencer Scott, Ezequiel Arteaga, Greyson Heusteuss, Keshuan Davis and Bryan Monroe. The eighth-year head coach feels they’re capable of rising to meet the leadership challenge.
“We return a skillful group, an intelligent group as far as the system and how we play,” Raynor said. “We have to find who will hold who accountable.”
He expects the squad to do well in the league again. Last year, East Bladen allowed just 14 goals all season, including a pair in a state playoff loss to Clinton and a mere six goals in the league season.
”We should do well in conference, but we have higher aspirations, and where they want to take this program,” Raynor said.
Alan Wooten can be reached at 910-247-9132 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @alanwooten19.