Boys soccer: Deer Park loaded for title run
Deer Park played Pearland, which won District 22-5A last season, to two scoreless ties and beat Dobie, which finished second, twice.
It also split with Pasadena Memorial, which took third.
But an inability to beat the bottom half of the district kept it from truly making waves. The Deer instead settled for fourth place — which was still pretty good considering how young they were.
"I was very surprised how well we did with the youth we had but they're very coachable kids, and now those little sophomores are juniors, so we're going to be pretty good," Deer coach Jerry Hurtado said.
The Deer had graduated 18 players the year before, so expectations weren't very high going into last season. But after playing so well against the upper-echelon teams, confidence is soaring this year.
"The two top teams in the district we did very well against but those goals that don't happen (against Pearland) end up hurting you in the overall point totals," Hurtado said.
"But still it was huge."
Only four players graduated off last year's squad, and only one, defender Jordan Knight, was a starter. That leaves Deer Park with 15 returning players, nine who were starters.
Unfortunately, standout goalkeeper Phillip Blake didn't come back. He helped Deer Park to nine district shutouts but opted not to play high school soccer this season and stick to just club soccer.
"We realize that Phillip made a lot of great saves for us last year," Hurtado said. "This year we have (junior varsity call-up) Edgar Resindez in the goal for us.
"He's a hard worker, the guys have a lot of respect for him, and, so far anyway, their attitude is we're just not going to allow for any shot to get off."
Senior midfielder Austin Roark is the top returner. Roark's confident with the ball but never cocky, and he's able to pull defenders to him and then give up the ball to teammates at the right time.
"He's probably our best at taking on a defender and really creating a play," Hurtado said. "We look to him for good leadership up front."
Senior forward Jeremy Brockman has taken on the scoring load early on. He poured in four goals during the Deer's scrimmages and Hurtado is anticipating a breakout season.
"He's very aggressive, never gives up on the ball, and he creates a lot of havoc if we don't have the ball," Hurtado said.
Deer Park is switching from a 3-5-2 with three marking backs to a four-back alignment this season, prompting Hurtado to move a few players around to take advantage of his defensive depth.
Austin Fletcher, a junior Rush Academy player, and Juan Rocha are moving from center mid to center back, where they'll play inside of defenders Hayden Duncan, a speedy senior, and Joel Rivera.
Sterling Kneedler is moving up from defense. The junior gives the Deer more height in the middle and is better there with the new formation.
"We noticed that the kid is very talented with the ball, and just looking at him with his size and his ability to initiate a play we moved him to the midfield, and it's been big for us," Hurtado said.
The Deer opened the season at the Cy-Fair Invitational, where their first match of the season was a 2-0 loss to a stout College Park squad.
But Hurtado expects his team to do very well in district, thanks to their ability to maintain possession.
"We've had a great offseason, and this team possesses the ball as well as some of the better teams I've ever coached," Hurtado said.
Deer Park's district is without Pearland and La Porte, which tied it once last season, further improving its chances of bringing home a district championship. The two moved with UIL realignment.
But 22-5A isn't without plenty of other talented teams.
"This district is extremely tough," Hurtado said. "A lot of people don't realize how good it is, but I think we'll be up there.
"We'll compete for it."
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