COVINGTON - When the Eastside boys soccer team takes the field to start its season against North Oconee on Monday, it will do so with a lot of enthusiasm but not a lot of experience.
"We've got 10 seniors but as far as experience-wise, there's probably three or four that are experienced," first-year coach Brian Saffold said. "We're fairly young, but we've got some real good players. It's a good mix, I think they'll learn throughout the season as they go."
Yanrick Tinker, Braden Smith and Jesse Badetscher were regular starters last year, while Lionel Francis, Jacob Warren and James Varnalso got playing time on the varsity level.
While the team will have people on the field with some playing time, their strikers are relatively new to that position.
Last year's midfielders, Smith, Tinker and Badetscher, will move to the front and try to improve on the 21 goals Eastside scored last season.
Playing defense for the Eagles will be Francis and Josh Knepper as their sweeper and stopper. Also getting to see action in the back will be Chue Kue and Joel Griswell.
The Eagles will more than likely split time at goalkeeper between sophomore Greg Morrell and junior Austin Cates.
"It's not good that we're that young at keeper, but it bodes well for next year, actually the next two years," Saffold said. "I think they'll both see some playing time."
While the Eagles have a lot to learn, the biggest obstacle Saffold sees is their lack of communication and trust.
"What we need to work on is communication and trust. A lot of it is knowing where they are and who they can trust as far as distributing the ball," Saffold said. "But a lot of it is communication. They talk to each other, but sometimes they just don't listen."
The Eagles ended their 2007 season with an overall record of 4-11 and 1-4 in Region 8-AAAA South play for fifth place in the subregion.
While winning every game is hard for any team, let alone a team without experience, Saffold is hoping that at least his team will play hard every minute.
"I'd like to win every game. Is it realistic? No. But ultimately, that's what we're out there to do," Saffold said. "Every kid out there wants to do well, that's the main thing. Whether doing well is a perfect season or giving everything they've got and leaving it all on the field, that's success to me, regardless of what the scoreboard says.
"It's going to be tough. I think our team's got resiliency and I don't think they'll get down on themselves. Hopefully, I'm right and we'll find out soon enough."
Manny Fils can be reached at email@example.com.
SideBar: At a glance
Team: Eastside boys soccer
Coach: Brian Saffold (first season)
Last year's record: 4-11 overall, 1-4 8-AAAA South
First game: Monday, 7 p.m. vs. North Oconee