DENHAM SPRINGS - Given his own lofty standards and expectations he holds his teams to, Denham Springs soccer coach Chris Thorne can’t help but gush about the prospects of this year’s team.
And for good reason.
“I don’t give lip service,” Thorne said. “This is the deepest team we’ve had here, it’s probably the most talented team we’ve had here, it’s definitely the team that works best together that we’ve had.
“It’s a bunch of guys who have grown up together from a young age,” Thorne said. “And you can tell that they’re motivated and have very high goals for themselves. You’re going to see some good soccer out of us this year.”
Denham Springs took a perfect 6-0 mark and No. 3 ranking in Division I into this weekend’s COPA Acadiana tournament at Moore Park in Carencro where the Yellow Jackets were grouped with Lafayette High and St. Amant.
Defending Division I state champion Jesuit, which knocked Denham Springs out of the playoffs in the state quarterfinals, along with St. Paul’s, Catholic High, Alexandria and Acadiana are also part of 14-team field.
The depth of the 2018 team is an understatement.
Denham Springs features a large senior class of 12 players that are versatile enough to play a variety of spots on the field.
One prime example of that was senior Jose Ortega, who after one practice following the football season, was forced to play goalkeeper because of an injury, and performed admirably during the Yellow Jackets run to the Rebel Cup championship.
Thorne praised Ortega, a placekicker on the football team, for his ability set up some of the offensive attack with booming 80-yard kicks from his own penalty area.
“We’ve been looking forward to this team for six or seven years now,” senior Sam Miller said. “This group of kids has always been together in clubs and in school. We’ve always been very close. We’ve been excited for our senior year of high school.
“We have more seniors than we can fit on the field so we’re very deep and we’re all very talented players,” Miller said. “Other teams have had problems with different cliques forming and not being this close, not being a family. I think our team has no trouble with that. I think we’re very close.”
Added Thorne, “Having a senior-heavy team is definitely not a position we’ve been in before. We should be very competitive in any match we’re playing in.”
Seniors Collin Turner and Bryan Lagos are keys in the midfield and the attacking third of the field.
Seth Bridges is credited as the emotional leader of the team and a valuable defender. But what makes the Yellow Jackets truly dangerous is that while half of their varsity pool are comprised of experienced seniors, the other half are promising underclassmen.
Junior Will Chevalier has proven to be trusted source of offense, already having scored eight goals through the team’s first six matches, making it difficult for opposing teams to try and mark him with two defenders because of the Yellow Jackets other offensive options.
That includes freshman Axel Amato, who scored three goals in the Rebel Cup and added two more in a home-opening 9-1 win over Live Oak and sophomore Brennan Amato, who is coming off a standout freshman season.
“We’re going to try to find a weakness and exploit that weakness with the player that’s there,” Thorne said. “So, you’re going to see Bryan Lagos, you’re going to see Jordan Licciardi, Danny Georges. There’s a bunch of guys who can be successful this year because of that.”
Said Chevalier, “I think we’re one of the top teams in the state all-around. We have good depth, we have good players, and we have good character. I think we can make a deep run.”
DSHS realizes that talent alone won’t win games. The Jackets have embraced a relentless work ethic that will ultimately serve as a driving force behind this team’s success.
Just don’t expect Thorne, or his players, to be satisfied with satisfactory play.
“I think with this team, we have seen what the past teams have done, and we have fixed their mistakes,” Chevalier said. “We work harder, I think we’re one of the hardest working teams in the state.”