2024 season preview: Callaway boys soccer is hungry for a deep playoff run
Published 8:00 am Thursday, January 25, 2024
The Callaway boys soccer team is looking to raise its first banner since 2011. There are not many people around Callaway High that remember that region title in 2011 and even fewer around the soccer program. The goals this season are simple: win a region title and make the state quarterfinals.
“That group set the standard, but we have not met that standard and have not reached that goal yet since I’ve been here,” Callaway coach Mike Petite said. “I want it on a personal level, but more importantly I want it for these guys. Our goal is to put a banner up there.”
The goals are simple, but the work that it will take to get there is not.
Callaway finished third in the region last season and were bounced out of the playoffs on the road to Drew Charter 7-1. The team was at times undisciplined and quick to leak goals, but Petite has sought to remedy that.
The biggest solution that Petite and assistant coach Hunter Lee found to the leaky goal problem is a change from three at the back to four at the back.
“We need to go back to being more disciplined,” Petite said. “In the past, we have lost some of that discipline and that’s on me. It is about doing the little things right every day, so we won’t have any issues on the field.”
Despite last season not meeting the standard previously set by the Cavaliers, it was just two seasons ago that the Callaway boys team set the program record for wins in a season with 15. The Cavaliers were just minutes away from raising another banner when they were leading 1-0 against Lamar County in the round of 16 late, but the team collapsed and lost 4-1.
This year’s team has the sort of leadership and bond that will help make nights like that obsolete.
“We will have practice at 4:30 and there will be guys out there 30 minutes before just having a fun time being with each other and that is a big thing,” Petite said. “The team chemistry is stronger this year.”
Not much has changed at goalkeeper in terms of personnel from 2022 to 2023 as Brayden Morris will lock down the position once again. Morris started every game as a freshman and has made major strides heading into his second season in charge of the goal.
“He played club this past year and getting those reps did huge things for him,” Petite said. “He personally decided he was going to get into better shape and he has put himself through a grind in the gym. He is stronger, faster, quicker and his confidence is there now too.”
Point University goalkeeper and Callaway alum John Will White works with the goalkeeping unit and has been a huge asset for the team.
Under Petite, the team has traditionally been a three-person defense with wingbacks storming up and down the flanks, but that is not the case this season as the team transitions to a four -man defense.
“The challenge for us is this is not something I have normally done,” Petite said. “Shifting, dropping and rotating is all different now and we are just now starting to put that together.”
Angel Velazquez is set to start as one of the two centerbacks.
Junior Darius Kimbrough will likely slot in as the other starting center-backs.
“He played center back for a club team this season and got a ton of experience doing that,” Petite said. “He is a quiet guy that just likes to go about his work.”
Seniors Caleb Cofield and Jonah Miller could see themselves starting at the two full-back spots. They will be pushed for those spots by junior Robbie Dorman and senior Dominic Jacob.
“Dominic has played just about every position we have had except goalkeeper,” Petite said. “The defense is a work in progress and could be by committee.”
Callaway will have three midfielders with two holding (defensive) midfielders acting as a double-pivot with an attacking midfielder orchestrating the offense. The chemistry between the two holding midfielders is going to be huge as the two figure out when one needs to push forward and when the other needs to drop and supply cover for the defense.
Junior Christian Cook and freshman Andre Molina are going to have to forge a quick partnership.
“Christian took last year off from soccer, but has come back with vengeance this year,” Petite said. “Andre comes from our middle school program and is a super talented young kid. Andre absorbs everything you tell him.”
Jayden Bailey will be locking down the attacking midfield spot. He tore up the field last season as a wingback and another year of club ball has seen the sophomore make strides.
“When we tracked stats for the team last year he was always running the most miles on the team, six miles at least,” Petite said. “He puts the work in every day and he has really become a vocal leader despite being just a sophomore.”
The attacking third of the pitch is where the Cavaliers are most settled. Seniors Greyson Batchelor and Journee Jordan are joined by sophomore Ricky Vaughn.
“Those three guys are our go-to guys,” Petite said. “Those guys have pace, technical ability and a high understanding of the game. Those three guys are going to be hard to contain.”
Vaughn burst onto the scene a season ago with 25 goals in his inaugural high school season.
“Ricky has a great ability to take on defenders one-on-one and I will take Ricky against anybody,” Petite said. “He has always had that skill, but he has got bigger and understands the high school game better now.”
Jordan also had double-digit goals last season and is currently committed to Andrew College to play soccer.
“Now that they are a year older and stronger it makes people wonder what they are going to be able to do this year,” Petite said.
Batchelor has become the leader for the team in his senior season.
“Greyson has really stepped up this year,” Petite said. “He was all-in his freshman year, but took a step back as sophomore and junior. He played, but he was not one of our leaders. He came to me in August and said he was all in and told me this is the year we get stuff done. He has been a leader for us every day at practice.”