By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The World Cup only happens once every four years, but not the O-Zone boys’ soccer power rankings.
As always, these rankings are based on dominance by class. Strength of schedule and recent success will also matter as the season continues. Power rankings will be released every two weeks throughout the regular season.
1. Glendale (Class 3) – Nineteen seniors. NINETEEN SENIORS. Most high school football programs don’t have senior classes that big. It’s not just quantity either – the Falcons return a lot of talent from last season’s 22-win team. Anchored by 2017 Class 3 co-defensive player of the year Mitch Stephens, Glendale was a pretty easy choice for the No. 1 spot in our preseason rankings. Remaining in Class 3 doesn’t hurt, either. Four challenging road games give the Falcons a big early season test.
Upcoming games: August 30 @ Ozark, August 31 vs. Saint Louis University High (St. Louis), Sept. 1 vs. DeSmet (St. Louis), Sept. 6 @ Carthage
2. Catholic (Class 2) – The Irish have talent and experience at all three levels. Jake Demarest (defender, second team all-state in 2017) and Nick Gomez (goalkeeper) lead the defensive unit. Kaueh Huttenlocher and Zach Straus graduated, but the Irish can turn to names like Calvin Sanders (midfield, 10 goals) and Hunter Skornia (forward, 14 goals and seven assists) for 2018. Catholic was a handful of goals away from sitting at 23-0 and in the Class 2 quarterfinals last season. Monett’s had Catholic’s number recently when it’s mattered, but the Irish are going to be a handful for any team in any Class this season.
Upcoming games: Aug. 25 vs. Republic, August 28 @ Carthage, Aug. 31 vs. Pembroke Hill, Sept. 4 vs. Marshfield
3.Rolla (Class 3) – Offensively, the Bulldogs return the most firepower among area teams. Jarret Gabriele (25 goals, 12 assists in 2017) is poised for a big senior season. Add in Mohamad Alamaldiem (nine goals, nine assists), Gabe Stanislawski (seven goals, 16 assists), Carson Arnold (five goals, 17 assists) and Evan Moore (seven goals, four assists) and you have no shortage of options. If the Bulldogs can have some new names step on defense, they’ll be in position to reach the 20-win mark for a second straight season.
Upcoming games: Aug. 28 vs. Pacific, Sept. 4-6 @ Pacific Tournament
4. Kickapoo (Class 4) – It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish. The Chiefs stormed back from a 6-6 start to reach the Class 4 final four. Scary thing is, I don’t think the Chiefs got any worse. They return three all-conference midfielders and have the area’s top goalkeeper, Jacob Holman, leading the defense. You’ll soon remember how good Jaxon Riddle is, too, as the senior forward returns from a 2017 leg injury.
Upcoming games: Aug. 25 @ Columbia Hickman and Columbia Rock Bridge, Aug. 28 @ Nixa, Aug. 30 @ West Plains, Sept. 1 vs. Pembroke Hill
5. Monett (Class 2) – Jason Puente might finish as the state’s all-time leading goal scorer (he needs 47 to set the record), but what’s really set the Cubs apart in Class 2 has been their wealth of offensive options. Guys like Carlos Izaguirre (’17), Adrian Moncivaiz (’18) and Freddy Ramirez (’18) were all-state level scorers and playmakers. The Cubs need new names to step up in support this year if they want to make it four straight Class 2 quarterfinal appearances. Esvin Merida and Loger Rodriguez could be next in line.
Upcoming games: Aug. 25 vs. Branson, Aug. 28 @ Joplin, Aug. 30 vs. Marshfield, Sept. 6 vs. Nixa
6. Republic (Class 4) – The memories: The Tigers had their best season ever last year, reaching the state final four for the first time in program history. They had a sensational win over Glendale in the state quarterfinals. The reality: six seniors graduated, including four captains and the program’s all-time leading scorer in Dylan Brown (56 goals, nine assists in 2017), who now plays for Rockhurst. Rebuilding year, right? Maybe not. The Tigers should have one of the area’s strongest defenses, anchored by a trio of all-conference players. Look for Austin Beck (five goals) and Andrew Flippin (five goals, 22 assists) to take on more prominent offensive roles. The COC’s football achievements are well known, but programs like Nixa, Carthage, Ozark and Republic are quickly growing its soccer prowess.
Upcoming games: Aug. 24 @ Waynesville, Aug. 25 @ Springfield Catholic, Aug. 30 @ Smith-Cotton
7. Ozark (Class 4) – Nearly everyone’s back from a 16-win team, which beat eventual final four participant Kickapoo but suffered six one-goal losses in 2017. Ozark returns all four of its all-conference players from a year ago, including leading scorer Lawson Spence. Class 4’s always brutal on the state level, but even more so locally this year with Republic and Carthage moving up a level. Don’t get caught up too much in the Class 4 order just yet – these teams will beat up on each other throughout the season.
Upcoming games: Aug. 28 @ Carl Junction, Aug. 30 vs. Glendale, Sept. 4 vs. Branson, Sept. 6 vs. Springfield Catholic
8. Rogersville (Class 2) – Keep an eye on the Wildcats as a team who could threaten the Monett-Catholic stranglehold on local Class 2 soccer. Led by four-year starters J.D. Kennedy and Ryan Christopher, the Wildcats will be strong in the back and in the midfield. They graduated only one starter from a 14-win team. Rogersville will be able to defend and possess. If they can find a couple of finishers up top, this will be a dangerous team come mid-October. I think they’ve narrowed the gap between them and Monett/Catholic. Just how much so remains to be seen.
Upcoming games: Aug. 28 @ Willard, Aug. 30 vs. Hillcrest, Sept. 4 vs. Bolivar, Sept. 6 vs. Lebanon
9. Laquey (Class 1) – The Hornets are no strangers to postseason success, having won three straight district titles from 2013-2015. They were district runner-up last year. Most of those players – including two-time all-state selection Tristan Gan – have graduated, but don’t sleep on the Hornets this year. Coach Tyler Sevon enters his fourth year at the helm and brings back a nucleus that includes all-state midfielder Brandon MacDonald and all-region defender Cayden Powers. With Crocker graduating much of its 2017 final four team, Laquey could reclaim Frisco League supremacy.
Upcoming games: Aug. 24 vs. College Heights Christian, Aug. 28 vs. Dixon, Aug. 30 @ Iberia, Sept. 3 vs. Cassville
10. Fair Grove (Class 1) – The Eagles left a Class 2 district that included Springfield Catholic. They joined a Class 1 district with four teams that all finished with losing records last season. In other words: The Eagles have a great opportunity to win their first district title in program history. Senior Maicol Newkirk expanded his playmaking abilities with improved passing last season. If he does it again in 2018, and the Eagles advance through districts, he could become Fair Grove’s first all-state player.
Upcoming games: Aug. 24-25 @ Lebanon Tournament, Aug. 28-Sept. 1 @ Cassville Classic, Sept. 6 @ Laquey
Knocking on the door: Willard (Class 3), New Covenant (Class 1), Greenwood (Class 1), Cassville (Class 2), Nixa (Class 4), Carthage (Class 4)