By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Every two weeks, Ozarks Sports Zone will release its boys’ soccer power rankings.
Rankings are based on dominance by Class, not head-to-head matchups.
If there’s one common theme heading into this, it’s this: Graduation hit hard.
Some teams (Kickapoo, Monett) graduated marquee players who were program staples. Others (like Glendale) will have a completely new team.
With such massive roster turnover, expect plenty of parity this fall.
1. Monett (Class 2) – Jason Puente’s gone, but we haven’t heard the last from the Cubs. They bring back two all-state players and have experience at all three levels of the field. Loger Rodriguez will be among the area’s leading goal scorers this season after netting 24 a year ago. Monett also brings back a three-year starter in goalkeeper Joshua Patino, all-state defender Jony Perez and experienced midfielders in Esvin Merida and Joey Semerad. Adding to all that: the largest incoming freshmen class (14) in program history. A few of those freshmen will see varsity minutes. The Cubs are bearing the fruits of two final four runs since 2016. The post-Puente era looks bright.
2. Ozark (Class 4) – Ozark returns the most talent of our Class 4 schools as it tries for a third district title in four seasons. Seven starters are back from a 23-win team. TK Stine, Carson Amstutz, Wade Korns and Troy Davidson give Ozark a formidable offense. The Tigers graduated a lot of talent on defense, including Drury signee and career goals leader Lawson Spence, but the offense should be good enough to lead the way as new players get acclimated.
3. New Covenant (Class 1) – The Warriors are an outlier in our “everyone graduated” theme. New Covenant brings back eight starters from a team that went 16-7 and lost to Fair Grove on a penalty kick in the district finals. All-state selections Dake Winslow and Collin Farquhar give New Covenant star power on offense and defense, respectively. The biggest graduation loss is all-state goalkeeper Ryan Rodgers. Similar to the girls’ team last spring, a promising freshmen class will help the Warriors fill in some gaps. The Warriors are the clear-cut favorite in local Class 1 this year and have a great chance to give Springfield a final four representative for the fourth straight season (Greenwood ’16, Kickapoo ’17, Glendale ’18).
4. Rolla (Class 3) – Rolla, Glendale and Kickapoo have dominated the Ozark Conference over the last decade. Don’t expect that to change much in 2019. Rolla returns the most talent of the contender trio, including a nine-player senior class led by all-state selection Gabe Stanislawski. If the defense can improve a bit, the Bulldogs should contend for a fourth straight district and their fourth season of 20+ wins since 2012.
5. Catholic (Class 2) – It’s not often you win 20 games and a district title yet feel like you could’ve done more. The Irish had their hearts ripped out by Monett in the sectional round as a very strong season ended prematurely. The Irish will have a much different look this fall, with leading scorers Hunter Skornia and Calvin Sanders gone and five other starting spots open. Injuries and move-outs by returning players have forced the Irish to adjust their lineup in the preseason, but this program is a consistent winner (nine district titles since 2009). Catholic will lean on a strong defensive unit early on as it figures out how to retool its attack.
6. Glendale (Class 3, 0-2) – No one graduated as much as Glendale, which comes off a final four season thanks to the largest senior class in program history. Those seniors are now gone, and Glendale will essentially “call up” its JV squad from a year ago. Glendale’s JV went 17-1-5 in 2018, so there is some talent on-deck. Grant Compere (team-high 21 assists), a senior and former all-state selection, will be the engine that drives Glendale. The Falcons didn’t waste any time welcoming their new players to the varsity level. Glendale traveled to St. Louis last weekend and played St. Louis University High (3-1 loss) and Webster Groves (4-1 loss). An early season showdown comes Thursday when Glendale hosts Ozark.
7. Kickapoo (Class 4, 1-1) – The Chiefs graduated the area’s top goalkeeper (Jacob Holman) and one of the best offensive threats (Jaxon Riddle), but as the saying goes, “tradition never graduates.” The Chiefs will tweak their look as they seek a third district title in four years. Seniors Aidan Bilbao and Luke Boyd are smart, versatile players who will lead the Chiefs this year. Kickapoo will have plenty of options for playing time elsewhere. Nearly 60 players attended tryouts and the Chiefs will field a “C” team this year in addition to their varsity and JV squads. The Chiefs began the season last weekend with a home doubleheader, losing to Rock Bridge (6-3) and beating Hickman (4-2).
8. Logan-Rogersville (Class 2) – Injuries simply derailed the Wildcats a year ago. Logan-Rogersville was poised to be a major factor in the Class 2 playoff race, thanks to an early season milestone victory over Springfield Catholic. Logan-Rogersville stood 12-3 overall after winning the Willard Tournament in late September. Then, everyone (seemingly) got hurt. The Wildcats lost six of their final eight matches with a depleted lineup. Logan-Rogersville will need to replace a superb back-line as it goes for its fourth straight winning season and an elusive district title. Senior forward/midfielder Austin Revels could be a breakout player this fall after recording 12 goals and 15 assists as a junior.
9. Nixa (Class 4, 0-2) – Nixa’s adjusting a bit after graduating seven senior starters. But I’ll believe a rebuilding season when it actually happens; Nixa’s won 15 or more games each season since 2014, including a district title in 2017 and a final run trip in 2015. Nixa will be younger than usual (a few freshmen will get varsity playing time) but the defense should be solid. Expect the Eagles to once again contend with Kickapoo and Ozark for local Class 4 supremacy. Nixa began its season last weekend with close losses at home to Hickman (2-1) and Rock Bridge (3-1).
10. Neosho (Class 3) – The Wildcats have steadily improved the last few years, and better things could be ahead in 2019. The two-time defending district champions return nine players with starting experience, including senior and all-conference selection Yahir Ruiz. Neosho had its best season in program history a year ago, winning 13 games and picking up its first state tournament win. We’ll see if Neosho’s better equipped to contend with the likes of Nixa and Ozark in the COC, and then Glendale and Rolla come postseason time.
Knocking on the door: Laquey (Class 1), Fair Grove (Class 1), Cassville (Class 2)