Last season was an investment for the Denton boys soccer team. Coach Scott Heffley entrusted several underclassmen with crucial amounts of playing time, and they responded by propelling the team to a three-game winning streak to end the regular season and the Broncos’ first playoff appearance in six years.
The Broncos went 9-10 overall and tied Guyer for third place in District 11-4A before falling to Aledo in a 2-1 overtime thriller. Despite losing some key seniors, Heffley said he’s expecting even more from his returning players.
“We lost three really strong players that graduated, but I think talent-wise we’re in a better position than we’ve been in a few years,” Heffley said. “Everyone in our district is coming back, if not as strong, even stronger. I thought we made the best of opportunities, and I think if we can outwork our opponents and create more opportunities more often than not, we’ll have success.”
With starting goalkeeper Jonathan Penny gone, junior Christian Rodriguez will step in as Denton’s starter after playing quarterback for the football team.
“In front of him, we’re returning the bulk of the defenders,” Heffley said. “Michael Husbands is huge for us. He’s a great ball winner and competitive player. Chandler Page and Zack Farmer are returning along with Diego Gonzalez also. We’re hoping that the returning line on defense is going to give us a lot of stability and allow us to move forward with a little more creativity.”
Feliciano Amaya headlines the Broncos’ offensive assailants as last season’s 11-4A newcomer of the year, while forward Chris Torres also made the all-district first team.
With the team’s versatility, Heffley said he hopes he can contort his lineup to suit different situations.
“We’ve got Zach Alspach returning and we’ve got Amaya returning along with Jose Herrera. Those three guys are going to give us an attacking presence, but Amaya is a player we put in a whole bunch of situations. He’s got a really keen sense of being around the goal, but he’s also extremely hardworking and fast, so we can put him on the outside and in the midfield. He can give us some crosses and width. He’s just an all-around great utility player.”
The Broncos’ preseason schedule includes an alumni game today and a scrimmage at home against Frisco Lone Star.
Trophy Club Nelson ran away with the district title last season, but Heffley said almost every team in the district was capable of beating Nelson. This season will be no different, he said, with many teams improving.
“Even though we’re a small district, I think it’s anybody’s district,” Heffley said. “Everybody has the potential to win. Every year it comes down to the last game to see who makes the playoffs, and every game is extremely competitive. There’s no team that you think you can get a break against.”
Rocky Monk is entering his first season as head coach of the girls team, after the departure of Iseed Khoury. His first step is evaluation, and he said turnout for tryouts was better than expected.
“This year we opened the floodgates and let everyone in who wanted to be in the [soccer] block,” Monk said. “We had 53 kids that were in the block, so that gave me from the beginning of school to evaluate the kids. We narrowed it down to 40, and we’re looking at 20 per team for JV and varsity.”
Last season ended with a disappointing 1-19 record, and Monk plans on solidifying Denton’s defense.
“I think playing a 4-4-2 [formation] will help us defensively,” Monk said. “Due to their history where they haven’t done so well, we’ve got to try to build from the back first. We can have fantastic strikers, but if we can’t keep the ball out of the back of the net, then we’ll struggle. I’m leaning toward taking a player from the back or the middle to play up, but for now we’ll stick to the 4-4-2.”
Whether Monk decides to go with a 4-4-2, a 4-3-3 or a 3-4-3, the formation choice will hinge on the development of the team’s forwards. They will be tested today during home scrimmages against Azle and Sherman.
“I think that we’re better than they’ve been in the past couple years, and I think we haven’t had much at forward in the past few years,” Monk said. “Usually it’s just one girl, but this year I’ve got a couple I can play up there that will not only help us this year but coming years as well.”
As for the Lady Broncos’ district competition, Monk expects each team to contend for the playoffs.
“The district is still very tough,” Monk said. “All the teams are getting better every year. Guyer is still very strong. I don’t see how they couldn’t go the distance. They have girls that are going to step up from JV to last year. Birdville and Byron [Nelson] are still going to be strong — Lake Dallas and Argyle too. We’ve improved, but so have they.”
PATRICK HAYSLIP can be reached at 940-566-6873 and via Twitter at @PatrickHayslip.