Enjoyable ride for Cavaliers
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
For Mike Petite, every day at work was a pleasure.
“We just had a really good, fun group of guys to be with,” said Petite, the head coach of the Callaway boys’ soccer team. “I enjoyed every single minute of being with these guys this season.”
Unfortunately for Petite and his players, what was shaping up to be a successful season was cut short.
Callaway beat Spencer 5-2 on March 11, and that turned out to be the final game of a season that was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cavaliers finished 5-4 overall, and 2-2 in Region 5-AA.
“I was having so much fun with them. That’s what was so disappointing,” Petite said. “They wanted to be out there, they were working hard. They had a good time with it. It was just a positive and a feel-good day every single day out there, and those seniors were a big catalyst to having all of that, because of their good connection and how they went about what they were doing.”
The Spencer game was the final one for a group of seniors who mean a lot to Petite, who became the head coach in 2017 when some of those players were freshmen.
The seniors include Joe Neese, Elbin Jacob, Tyson Harr, Neal Ellison, Zach Wylie, Taylor Hardy, Calik Kemp, and Elton Rubio.
“The seniors themselves have been a fun group,” Petite said. “They’re friends outside of soccer as it is. A bunch of them hang out. They brought that tight-knit community to us already. They just brought that chemistry that they already had and mixed it in with the young guys. We just had a really good, fun group of guys to be with. I enjoyed every single minute of being with these guys this season.”
Among those seniors is Joe Neese, who was having a monster season with seven goals in nine games, while Elbin Jacob had four goals.
“Joe has done all kinds of things and played wherever I needed him to play,” Petite said. “In certain situations I needed an athlete to fill this spot, or a guy who can do this and this, and Joe is like fine I’ll go in the back. Normally he’s a goal scorer and plays up top. Plenty of times he played in the back. Elbin has done the same thing. He’s stepped up and said hey coach, what can I do. Both of them have been great leaders.”
Jacob, Petite added, “took over the summer program and had guys out there all summer long, all during the offseason when we can’t be out there, making phone calls, and going to pick up guys. So that’s been the kind of guys they’ve been.”
While the seniors will be missed, Petite believes the future is bright.
“We got a lot of contributions from young guys,” Petite said. “I had freshmen starting in some very key places. I had a good mix of guys that were willing to jump in and just work. They didn’t care what position they played, or how much they played. They just wanted to be a part of it. I looked forward to being out there every single day. It was an enjoyable time to be out there with those guys.”
Petite is hoping to get some time on the field with his players this summer.
Callaway has hosted a seven-on-seven soccer league over the past few years, and whether that will happen or not remains to be seen.
“Seven on sevens are a lot of fun,” Petite said. “We get great crowds. The kids have a good time with it. We’re always looking to expand it where we’ve got more teams and better quality of play. We’ve already got interest from Columbus schools, and LaGrange and Troup are hopefully coming back. Keep our fingers crossed, and maybe we’ll be able to meet for at least a few weeks this summer.”