Experienced Rockets look to defend Bay Division title

J. Patrick Eaken

Last year, Oak Harbor boys soccer won a league co-championship with just two seniors and that bodes well for the Rockets this year.
        Oak Harbor went 10-6 overall and won a Sandusky Bay Conference Bay Division co-championship with an 8-2 record, sharing the title with Huron.
        Those two seniors last year were both injured for the majority of the season, so everyone returning has plenty of experience, especially 12 letter winners.
        Key players returning include five seniors, freshman Aidan Barton, defensemen Jon Robinson and Brock Hanney, goalkeeper Caleb Goldstein and midfielder Caleb Heintz. Juniors include defenseman Luke Jacobs and midfielders Levi Jacobs and Sergio de Miguel and sophomores are midfielders Josh Collins, Mason Gradel, Noah Mylander, Cade Peterson and defenseman Michael Judge.
        Barton, who led the team with 13 goals and seven assists. and Robinson were first team All-SBC and first team all-district. Hanney and Goldstein, who had 61 saves, were honorable mention all-district. Despite the numbers put up by Barton and Goldstein, Filar says there are more important qualities to his team’s success.         
        “Our team tends to downplay ‘stats’ – instead – we focus on team play and style of play,” Filar said. “We only discuss stats when required for league voting at the end of the season.  Otherwise – the focus is on forwards and goalkeepers only because those are the guys who get the ‘stats’.  At Oak Harbor, our most valuable players are typically center backs (defenders) and central midfielders.
        “Forwards and midfielders do the majority of our scoring and we hope to have a well balanced attack.  We do attack with defenders on set pieces and also when working the ball on the outside of the field,” Filar continued.
        “We have a very solid group of midfielders with the most depth we’ve had in my nine seasons at Oak Harbor.  We pride ourselves that our midfielders have great field vision and are diverse enough to play any of the midfielder positions that we put them in. 
        “They are all solid individual and team defenders, and also can aggressively counter attack – or build up to an attack, depending on the situation and the opponent.  We are still young – and will make mistakes. However, the boys are really good at learning from them and we have a group of players this year who are extremely coachable. That makes for a promising season.”
        Filar says Robinson and Hanney will lead the defense.
        “Jon Robinson is at the top of the list, followed by Brock Hanney. These guys have played together for several years now and work great together and keep the back line in sync,” Filar said. “Jon is the kind of players who can play anywhere on the field – including forward.  He’s two-footed, fast, a strong defender, has great work ethics, and leads by example.  He is on the quiet side, but extremely tough and the younger boys look up to him. 
        “Brock is also on the quiet side but has developed into a high quality left defender. He’s worked for several years on his left foot and is sneaky fast. Jon and Brock don’t leave the field at Oak Harbor. 
        “Junior Luke Jacobs moved to outside defender midseason last year and quietly became one of our most solid players.  Because of Luke’s development and dedication, we’ve been able to move him to a center back position with Jon Robinson and return to the Flat-Back-4 defensive scheme we used to play. It’s the first time in two years that we’ve had two players who have what it takes to play center back.”
        Goldstein returns for his third season as the team’s top keeper.
        “He has advanced and worked very hard in the last two years to be a complete goalkeeper,” said Filar. “It was new to him as a sophomore – and he’s improving to learn all the little things it takes to be a top goalkeeper.  I expect he’ll be in contention to be the top goalkeeper in the SBC this year. 
        “However, he broke his foot this summer and won’t be able to practice until mid-August. We’re not sure how many games he’ll miss – but senior Caleb Heintz (four saves last year) has stepped up and agreed to fill in until that time. Neither goalkeeper has had any formal goalkeeper experience or been to any camps – so it’s been a sharp learning curve for both of them.”
        Filar says his entire squad has been through the grinder, having to get used to varsity action at a very young age. That includes this year’s sophomores.
        “Due to a lack of seniors and injuries last season, several of our current sophomores were required to learn, and fail, at the varsity level as freshmen. Despite that situation, they still managed to be co-champions of the SBC last year,” Filar said. 
        “It was great experience for many of them and they’re already vastly improved from the start of last season. Almost all of our returning sophomore letter-winners are already demonstrating vast improvement from this time last season.  Standout improved players from what we’re seeing in the first two days of August are juniors Luke and Levi Jacobs. Sophomores Elijah Ibarra and Quinn Callahan played JV last year but are expected to get valuable minutes this season to provide depth.”
        Filar expects that junior Sergio de Miguel, sophomore Felix Schmidt, and freshman Isaac McHale “are sure to make an impact.”


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