Wildcats ready for I-49 Battleline clash
The I-49 Battleline moves to the soccer field this week as Springdale Har-Ber is set to host Springdale High at home on Wednesday.
Originally the match was scheduled for Tuesday, but that changed when matches last Friday were canceled when storms moved through Northwest Arkansas. The Friday matches were moved to Monday night, and Tuesday's scheduled matches were bumped to Wednesday. The normal 7A schedule should resume on Friday.
Heading into Monday night's match at Rogers High, Har-Ber and Springdale share top billing in the conference at 6-1. The Wildcats are 9-5 overall. Springdale was set to host Rogers Heritage on Monday.
Har-Ber coach Cory Butler is no stranger to this always highly anticipated clash.
"It will be a big one, then you add on top of it that it's a rivalry match, it's going to be big for both teams," Butler said.
The Wildcats advanced to the 7A title game last season after knocking off Springdale 3-1 in the semifinals. Har-Ber lost to Rogers High in the final 5-3.
Butler said this year's team is loaded with seniors, but not many of them saw a lot of minutes last season on a team that was also senior-heavy.
Junior keeper Jonathan Sandoval has been solid in the net, Butler said.
"Fundamentally he is sound," Butler said. "He's got great reaction time and he's not scared of anything. So he will get into a crowd, he'll make dives when players are coming at him. He's our ideal goal-keeper."
Left midfielder Sandro Ramirez led the Wildcats' offense, and Butler said Yohan Fuentez and Brandon Ruvalcaba have excelled on defense.
Bulldogs showing plenty of bite
First-year Decatur boys soccer coach Sheldon McKinzie wanted to get a head-start to the season, so as soon as the high school football season ended in early November, the Bulldogs were on the field getting ready for soccer.
McKinzie has 27 players out for the soccer team, a number the football coach would love to have as the Bulldogs constantly struggle with a numbers shortage in the fall.
"We kind of turned this into a year-long thing this year," McKinzie said. "The kids who weren't playing basketball we got out there and started practicing since pretty much the first week of November. In the past, this was really sort of a club sport. But with the interest level now, we've turned it into a competitive sport this year for the first time in a little while."
Decatur is 6-3 on the season and 4-3 in conference play. Two of its three losses have come on penalty kicks to Prairie Grove and Danville, a sure sign of improvement. Last season the Bulldogs were throttled 8-0 to Prairie Grove and 7-0 to Danville.
Decatur has only a handful of seniors and 14 freshmen, so the future looks bright as well, McKinzie said.
The Bulldogs recently knocked off both Huntsville and Gentry. They will take on LifeWay Christian on the road tonight and take a junior varsity squad to Lincoln on Thursday before jumping back into varsity play at Lead Hill on Friday.
"We've really been able to make a pretty good turnaround," McKinzie said. "We played Subiaco Academy to start the year and wanted to make a statement that Decatur soccer was for real. We won that game 2-0 and that was the first time we've managed to beat them in four years.
"Winning that game, I think, just got kids to buy in and start believing that they could actually do it."
Having confidence has been a huge factor, McKinzie said.
"Unfortunately it's kind of been one of those things where we're Decatur, we're not supposed to win any of these games. This year we've really been able to turn the corner and said we should win these games."
William Barrios and Jason Gomez have been huge factors in the resurgence along with sweeper Seth Rich, who'd never played organized soccer until this season, McKinzie said.
Prior to coming to Decatur, McKinzie spent two years as a volunteer at Gravette after a stint in the military.
Wolves record first-ever win
History was made last week when Lincoln posted a 2-0 shutout over Westville, Okla. in boys soccer. The win was the first-ever soccer victory for Lincoln.
Wolves coach Paul Crouch, who is building the program from the ground up, said the team had come close earlier this season in a tie with Eureka Springs.
"It was very exciting," Crouch said. "Getting that first win was really nice."
Crouch started a youth soccer program in Lincoln a five years ago, and the players have grown into his high school program.
"We saw the need for more activities for the youth in Lincoln," Crouch said. "So we started the soccer program because we felt like we could build it from the ground up."
The Wolves are playing a nonconference schedule this season against mostly varsity teams. Next season Lincoln drops down to Class 3A in the new reclassification cycle.Preps Basketball on 04/17/2018
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