Improved War Eagles Kick Off Soccer Season

The soccer season has been a virtual grind up to this point for Oak Ridge in participating in the Friendswood tournament and hosting the Oak Ridge Classic the past two weekends. Throw in four games sprinkled in between and it’s soccer galore.

The single games were scrimmages with victories over Jersey Village and Willis (both 1-0) and losses to Elsik and Memorial high schools (both 2-0 losses). The Friendswood tournament is an early measure as to how far the program has come in the past two seasons. Coach Jason Fanning talks about the tournament, “I felt we had the toughest group with perennial 4A powerhouse Friendswood, a very strong 5A team in Clear Creek, and another 4A team (Angleton) that has been to the playoffs for the past six years.

The War Eagles opened with Creek in a real physical game that resulted in a 2-1 loss. To give you an idea of how good Creek is, a week later, Creek went on to beat new district rival Kingwood, 1-0. Next up in the tournament, Ridge had a strong performance against Angleton where they controlled the entire game giving Angleton very few attacking opportunities. Although they controlled the whole game, one goal was all they would need in taking this contest 1-0. Coach Fanning elaborated on the lack of scoring; “The gluttony of possession didn’t lead to many goals but the performance was appreciated by the coaching staff and the 1-0 final was a tribute to our character.”

The last game of the group was huge for Oak Ridge. If they went on to win against Friendswood, they would win the group but anything else would mean they’d be out. It was do or die for the War Eagles.

Fanning talks about the game, “I believe the rarity of our boys being presented with that situation resulted in our tentative start and Friendswood jumped all over us with a 3-0 first half score. The boys would not be denied in making a statement, finishing strong and were unlucky to not score in the second half.”

The Oak Ridge classic was a tournament of vindication, exuberance, and disappointment. In the opening game. the War Eagles exacted revenge on Dekaney for the loss to them in last year’s final to the tune of a 5-1 score. In the next round, Oak Ridge met up with Northbrook, a team that handed the War Eagles a 4-0 thrashing last year. Coach liked this year’s result, “The boys grounded out one of the guttiest performances I’ve seen in my time here at Oak Ridge.” Northbrook jumped out fast with a goal in the first 30 seconds. However, Oak Ridge worked hard and eventually got back into the game by converting a penalty kick to make the halftime score 1-1. In the second half, with both teams running on fumes the War Eagles were not without chances as they had three choice opportunities in the final 15 minutes but failed to capitalize. Northbrook had their own opportunities as well in connecting with the post twice.

With the score tied 1-1 after regulation, Oak Ridge went a perfect 10/10 on penalty kicks. What was most impressive was the final penalty kick when Johnathan Easley, the young man who missed the “PK” in last years final, scored the winning “PK” to send the War Eagles into the final.

The final brought a group of speed demons from Cy/Springs. Cy/Springs was dominant in taking the final, 4-1. Coach Fanning was happy with his team’s performance in the tournament. “The boys were very disappointed with having finished runner-up for the second year in a row but I reminded them that second place is not the first loser. There were six other teams begging to switch places.”

Coach Fanning likes his team’s prospects in the revamped District 14-5A. “I am very optimistic about our chances in 14-5A. It will be a struggle with the addition of Kingwood and Atascocita, but I’d like to remind anyone who brings that to our attention that Oak Ridge is in the district as well and we are on the way up.”

One thing I’ve noticed in watching the War Eagles play is they work very hard regardless of the score. They seem to play with a nasty disposition always having something to prove to their opposition, the school, and themselves. Oak Ridge soccer was down last year and these guys want to show everyone they are for real and worthy of the school’s support.

The team has great senior leadership and youth in starting three freshmen several times already this early in the season.

Coach Fanning’s goals this season? ” Our goal is to finish in the top half of the league and establish the program as a competitive contributor to the 14-5A playoff race. Our key performers include senior captain, Martin Gonzalez who is a four year letter winner and all-district selection the past two years and our biggest attacking threat. When Martin has the ball at his feet, he immediately demands the attention of every opposing player. Martin is a scoring threat from anywhere  on the field and has scored five goals so far this season. The biggest part of his game this year will be his willingness  to score and provide scoring opportunities for others. Martin already has two assists and has set his goals on improving everyone else around him.

Fanning continued, “The team also has scoring threats in Jose Mendoza (sophomore/2goals) and senior Johnathan Easley (senior/3goals). Once Easley harnesses his physical presence more consistently, his goal tally will rocket. We are anchored in the middle by newcomer Ian Berns (one of three freshmen who see regular playing time). When you see this kid play the old cliche of the size of the dog in the fight comes to mind. His character will not be contained by his size as he will get stuck in with the biggest of opponents. In the back on defense, we have a mixture of youth and experience in Alec Burmeister (frosh), Chris Campos (Soph), Erick Guardado (Senior), and co-captain Mario Ortega (Senior). Alec routinely unleashes his incredible speed on the opposition and as soon as he gets more confident he will be scoring goals consistently. Chris and Erick are both big and strong. They  are tough defenders whose tenacity is matched only by their willingness to do whatever it takes to help the team. Mario’s speed and technical ability make him a threat on the wing and his work ethic and leadership make him a strong leader for the team.

The Oak Ridge high school soccer team’s website is: http://orhs.conroeisd.net/boys_soccer/.
Look at the schedule and go watch a few games. People like to say soccer is not as exciting as some other sports because there isn’t much scoring. If a soccer score is 3-2, that’s a 21-14 football game. Soccer is an art and when played and coached correctly, it is a strategic gem of a sport and a thrill to watch.

Here at Oak Ridge, Coach Fanning has a plan. You can always pick out the soccer coaches who were thrown into the position and know nothing about the game. Those are the teams that employ the “kick and run” style as in just keep kicking the ball towards the opposing goal and see what happens.

When you watch Oak Ridge soccer, the beauty with which they matriculate the ball up the field is pure art.

The boys have grinded out a tough preseason schedule to the tune of a 3-3-1 record heading into Friday’s contest at home against Channelview. Jv at 5pm and Varsity at 7pm.

Come support War Eagle soccer!

Comments to Doug Sarant at doug@oakridgenow.com

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Doug Sarant, Oak Ridge Now

Born and raised in New England, Doug promises he got to Texas as fast as he could. He earned the much needed "piece of paper" from Sam Houston State, proving to himself he could start and finish something. Doug's interests include coaching and playing any sport and still plays lacrosse competitively. He also enjoys going to dinner theaters, though he complains there just aren't enough of them in the area. Doug was brought up in a cultured environment, having suffered through dozens of symphonies and operas with his way too over-educated mother. At the end of the day, Doug is just a dad and husband and claims to be good at both.

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