By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It may take Carthage coach Jacob Osborne a few games to figure out what he has in his 2018 squad.
But he knows one thing: The Tigers won’t lack motivation.
“We lost some really important players, but we have some new, younger players coming in with a lot of potential,” Osborne said. “It’s all going to depend on how they gel as a team, but they are very hungry.”
A pair of juniors lead the way for Carthage. Junior David Garcia is the team’s top returning scorer after posting eight goals and seven assists last season.
“He’ll mainly play striker but will see time at center-mid as well,” Osborne said. “He has good speed and skill. I look for him to take a jump this year and make an impact for us.”
Junior Mamerto Lopez had a strong debut season for Carthage in 2017. He’ll lead Carthage’s back line.
“He didn’t get a lot of recognition (last year), but teams will know who he is this year,” Osborne said.
Carthage welcomes back nine other players with varsity experience this season. Those returnees and a promising freshmen class aim to get the Tigers back into the state playoffs.
Carthage lost 3-2 in overtime to Republic in last season’s Class 3 District 11 title game.
The outcome snapped Carthage’s streak of nine straight district championships. Republic went on to reach the Class 3 final four.
Carthage’s varsity returnees include seniors Victor Lopez, Julian Garrido, Dagner Reyes and Celio Perez.
Victor Lopez is the team’s most experienced varsity defender. Garrido, like Mamerto Lopez, also made his varsity debut last season and played well in the back.
“Julian’s a smart player and does a good job of winning balls out of the air,” Osborne said.
Reyes split time between the JV and varsity last season. He’s emerged into a team leader thanks to a strong offseason.
“He’ll play a large role for us,” Osborne said.
Perez was an ace off the bench last season, delivering seven goals. Osborne plans to have him in a similar role this year to boost Carthage’s attack.
“We struggled to score and create goals last year,” Osborne said. “I’m hoping to see some growth from us in those areas, but we’ll need some kids to make some big leaps on that side of the field.”
Varsity newcomers pushing for playing time include junior goalkeeper Angel Ordonez and sophomore forward Jose Castro.
Ordonez was a move-in during the spring semester. Castro only played in two varsity matches last season but scored the tying goal in the district final versus Republic.
“Angel has a lot of potential and talent in goal,” Osborne said. “Jose has a chance to play a very important offensive role for us.”
Carthage graduated a senior class that included a trio of four-year varsity contributors. Forward Elder Reyes, midfielder Mauricio Gonzalez and defender John Navarrete helped the Tigers win an average of 17 games per season from 2014-2017.
Reyes and Navarrete were two-time all-state selections.
Carthage will add a talented freshmen class to its lineup this fall. Osborne expects at least three of them to contend for varsity minutes: Adrian Garrido, Lester Mejia and Walter Mejia.
Carthage begins the regular season August 28 at home versus Springfield Catholic.