By Denise Tucker (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
The Ozark Tigers are coming off the most successful season in boys’ program history under one of the most successful coaches in the state of Missouri.
But, things are going to look a lot different on the pitch and on the sidelines this season with the loss of 14 seniors and a new head coach in place.
The Tigers finished with a school-record 24 wins to go with 3 losses, and ran the table in the Central Ozark Conference, going 9-0, and captured their second-straight Class 4 District 11 championship before falling 2-1 to Lee’s Summit West in the sectional round.
New head coach Zack Owens, a 2002 Ozark High School graduate, served as an assistant the past five years and said the leadership of the Class of 2020 was the key to the Tigers’ success and it will be missed.
“We were led by a group of 14 seniors that had played together since they were young and it showed in their achievements,” Owens said. “Leadership is huge. Commitment to play together and for each other is huge. When everyone is on the same page and has the same drive and desire to win, the success will happen.”
Owens heads into his first season as a head coach taking over for Tom Davidson, who had coached at Ozark since 2008, amassing a record of 369-215-23 between the boys’ and girls’ programs. For his career, which included a stint as the head coach at Kickapoo High School, Davidson finished with an overall record of 851-360-71, and a Class 4 District 11 Coach of the Year selection for 2019.
“His impact on the program has been huge,” Owens said of Davidson. “He started Ozark Soccer Club (OSC) when he came to Ozark, and the impact was proven in our seniors last season. I have been lucky to learn from him over the last five years. I am excited for the challenge of filling his shoes and proving myself for the players, school and community for years to come.”
Owens will have his hands full in filling the gap left by the Class of 2020, which included:
• TK Stine, forward – Scored 26 goals with 7 assists. Earned Class 4 All-State Second-Team, Class 4 Region 3, Class 4 District 11 First-Team, All-Central Ozark Conference First-Team honors.
• Carson Amstutz, midfielder – 10 goals, 14 assists. Class 4 District 11 Player of the Year, All-COC First Team. Playing soccer at Evangel University.
• Troy Davidson, midfielder – 15 goals, 14 assists. Class 4 All-State Second Team, Class 4 Region 3, Class 4 District 11 First Team, All-Central Ozark Conference First Team. Playing soccer and running track at Southwest Baptist University.
• Seth Glossip, defender – 7 goals, 5 assists. Class 4 Region 3, Class 4 District 11 Defensive Player of the Year, All-Central Ozark Conference First Team. Playing soccer and baseball at Evangel.
• Mark Shtevnin, goalkeeper – Class 4 District 11 Goalkeeper of the Year, All-COC Second Team
• Wade Korns, forward – 15 goals, 14 assists. All-District First Team
• Caleb Clancy, defender – All-District Second Team
• Mason Demoss, defender – All-District Second Team, All-COC Second Team
• Joe VanHoesen, defender – All-District Second Team, All-COC Honorable Mention
• Eli Lairmore, defender/midfielder – Playing soccer at Evangel.
The cupboard isn’t completely bare for Owens, as he returns experience in Dillon Holesapple, Riley Shelton, Micah Lepant, Quinten Milligan and Jose Ortega.
• Dillon Holesapple, senior, midfielder – Scored 5 goals with 7 assists in 2019. “He will be an important part of the team this year as a leader,” Owens said. “He is our most vocal player and brings the most varsity experience to the table. He is dangerous in the midfield as he sees the pitch well and knows the game inside and out.”
• Riley Shelton, senior, midfielder – “He will be one of our defensive leaders and communicators. This is his senior season and he is ready for the commitment and challenge. I can play him just about anywhere and that will be big for us.”
• Micah Lepant, senior, midfielder – “Another senior ready to get going. He can play anywhere on the field, including goalie and be successful. We are lucky to have him as a player.”
• Quinten Milligan, junior, defender – “This will be a big season for Quinten stepping into a role that, the last several seasons, we have had big-time, quality players as center backs. He has learned and watched some of the best in the area – he will be ready.”
• Jose Ortega, junior, forward – “He is possibly our most skilled attacker. We are expecting great things this season. He has grown faster and stronger since last fall.”
Owens also has several newcomers he is looking to make an impact in 2020, including:
• Justin Baker – “He is excited to get varsity time and experience. He is another player we can utilize almost anywhere on the field.”
• Drake Ogle – “Looking forward to him stepping into some key roles and gaining experience as well.”
• Adrian Ortega – “Another great skilled player with good footwork and knowledge of the game.”
• Caleb Sandgren – “We will be looking to use him for quality minutes in our offensive game. He finds goals in games and is good at putting himself in positive situations in front of the goal.”
• Emilio – “He is going to be finding time in our defense. We will utilize him as a physical presence and are excited to watch his knowledge of the game grow.”
• Renato Granja – “He will be a dangerous portion of our midfield and attack. He is another player we can utilize in several spots on the field.”
• John Goins – “He is back after an injury last season and stronger than ever. We will take advantage of his speed and skill on the ball.”
• Nathan Thrasher – “He is a workhorse that wants to succeed. We will utilize his speed and senior wisdom in our defense.”
“They have all seen the success of last year’s team and teams before that,” Owens said. “They are good at taking the coaching and knowledge they have and applying it to the game. Hard work is not something they are scared of and physicality comes natural for them. Most of the starters will not have much varsity time at all under their belts, but I see that as a positive in the fact that they’re hungrier than ever to get that experience.”
Owens said his team has been preparing for the season “as normal as possible,” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, by participating in scrimmages, playing in club events, 3v3 tournaments, and working on strength training over the summer.
But, Owens also is hungry and ready for his first season as a head coach as his team chases a third-straight district title and back-to-back COC titles. Ozark will participate in a jamboree at Republic with Nixa and Springfield Catholic on Aug. 21, before opening the season at home against Glendale on Aug. 28.
“I am just ready to get going full-swing,” Owens said. “The summer is great because you get to see your players some and see them in action for their clubs at different events, but there is nothing like the fall season. It is the peak for me and we are excited as ever. The players are coachable, they listen, they are responsive and they want to do well. They have high expectations for themselves. Those make it easy for me to do my job.”