The Columbia Falls boys soccer program can go nowhere but up after a disappointing end to their season last year.
“We’ve got good leadership from our core of seniors,” coach Peter Browne said.
Those seniors include Austin Kimmet, Keenan Jessat, Bailey Griffith, Kyle Kelly and Breydon Levinsky.
Last year, the Wildcats went 2-5-1 in conference play and 4-7-1 overall. They still had a shot at a playoff berth but were blanked by Libby 2-0 in the final game.
Columbia Falls also lost some key players. Quentin Foust was expected to be a key part of this year’s team, but he moved. The result a young team again without a whole lot of varsity experience.
“We’ve got a good group of kids,” Browne said. “But we lack experience.”
The team will likely keep four freshmen and have about 16 total on the roster. That makes for a light bench. Browne said the team will need to stay healthy.
One big plus is the team’s goalkeeper, Brandon Karberg.
“He’s very talented,” Browne said.
The team starts play Sept. 5 and 6 on the road against Belgrade and Park respectively.
Boys soccer shows elite fitness as season nears
Posted: Wednesday, August 27, 2014
This season represents a blank canvas for the Whitefish boys soccer team. Gone is the weight of back-to-back state championships and a ridiculous 31-game winning streak the team shouldered most of last season.
While the talent-laden squad of 2013 seemed to crumble under the weight of its own success — out of the playoffs in the first round — this year’s team appears wholly unconcerned with the past achievements of Bulldog soccer.
“The pressure is completely gone,” said head coach O’Brien Byrd. “This team is setting their own expectations, instead of trying to meet expectations set by others.”
With a week of practice under their belt, Byrd still isn’t sure of the goals his team is aiming for.
“I haven’t heard anyone talk about a championship,” he said. “Not that it’s not their goal, but last season there was so much expectation.”
“Right now, the coaching staff is smiling and confident. We can’t wait to hear their goals and see how this season unfolds.”
One thing for sure is that this is the most physically fit team Byrd has coached in all his years at the helm. In fact, a player fitness test reveals a team average as high as any team since the Dogs began tracking results.
“We’ve had great attendance at summer workouts,” Byrd said. “Their work ethic is incredible.”
Turnout is down compared to past seasons, but the gap in talent is a tight as ever. Ten seniors will lead the Dogs, with six of those as returning players.
“We’re a blend of youthful talent and experience,” Byrd explained.
Mid-fielder Jared Johnson and forward Shanoah Montano will lead as senior captains. Junior defender Walter Sobba will lead the defense as captain.
“I’m excited to see those three work together,” Byrd said.
While in the past the Dogs have relied on ball possession and a dominate offense, this season the team is focused on defense.
“Some seasons we are so strong in our attack, we can learn how to defend as the season goes along,” Byrd said. “But this year, with the strength in the conference, our onus is on team defense.”
Byrd expects the Dogs will face low-scoring tight battles in the Northwest A.
“Our games will be thrilling,” he said.
Whitefish, Bigfork and Columbia Falls appear to be favorites in the league.
“We’ll be challenging for the conference, but it’s going to be tough,” Byrd said.
Across the state, the defending champions of Park High should be reloaded in the east, and Hamilton could be a contender in the south.
Whitefish begins it’s season Aug. 29 at Hamilton.