By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Rogersville returns all but one starter from a district runner-up squad that finished 14-10 overall last season. Veteran coach Brett Wubbena hopes the experienced roster will translate to confident play on the field.
“This is a great group of guys that get along with each other,” Wubbena said. “I’m looking to see if we have the confidence that will allow us to go into games and make our opponent try and play with us rather than us hoping we can play with them.”
Rogersville’s returning core has keyed a recent turnaround for the program. The Wildcats were 6-18 in 2015 but won 13 games in 2016 and 14 last year.
The Wildcats are again led by their defense and midfield play.
“We have good skills and can possess the ball,” Wubbena said. “We have good leadership and experience.”
Senior J.D. Kennedy enters his fourth season as a starting defender.
“We’ve built the defense around him,” Wubbena said. “He’s a great leader and also great in the air on corners and set pieces.”
Seniors Cody Bledsoe and Cavin Terrell join Kennedy in the back.
“They have all kinds of speed and are tough to beat,” Wubbena said. “These two and JD read each other well and defend as a unit. They’re all great players, better students and even better young men.”
Senior midfielder Ryan Christopher is another four-year starter for the Wildcats. He had eight goals and 10 assists last season.
“He’s an impact player and controls the midfield,” Wubbena said. “This year, I expect that we will again play through him, as he does a great job of creating opportunities.”
Senior goalkeeper Justus Roderick transferred from Carl Junction last season and excelled in a starting role for the Wildcats.
“He’s a big presence in the goal for us and reads shots well,” Wubbena said. “We have a sophomore goalkeeper, Kobe Fisher, that Justus does a great job in mentoring for the future.”
Juniors Brayton Knight and Austin Revels will play at midfielder or forward. Wubbena said Knight is a dynamic finisher, while Revels has a knack for delivering pinpoint passes on attacks.
“We may struggle scoring goals at times because we are so heavy with midfielders,” Wubbena said. “We should defend well and keep scores low.”
Junior forward Kyle Carter is one of the team’s most improved players.
“I call him (Romelu) Lukaku, the Belgian forward, because he is big, strong and can score goals,” Wubbena said.
Former defender Garrett Vinson will move up to the midfield.
“He has outstanding ball handling and vision,” Wubbena said. “He can pass and score depending on what we need.”
Wubbena said that Oscar Marten, Rogersville’s lone graduation loss, was a “fantastic player and we’ll really miss him.”
Rogersville has several returning varsity lettermen pushing for playing time. Among that group are: Preston Sleeth, Marty Hale, Jon Fetters, Alex Shaw, Stephen Terrell and Brennon Rowland.
“They’ve worked hard this summer and are looking to have a breakout season,” Wubbena said.
Wubbena’s also excited about the debut of freshmen brothers Ryland and Sage Ballard.
“They’re fantastic additions to our team and will definitely challenge for a varsity spot if not a starting spot,” Wubbena said.
Rogersville opens the regular season Aug. 28 at Branson.