CONYERS - Upon listening to Heritage boys soccer coach Brandon Stewart, it is clear what this season will focus on above all else - teamwork.
"Our focus these first few weeks is to build on our existing chemistry toward our team goals as opposed to gunning for individual stats and accolades," Stewart said. "We work technically, not just to benefit the individual players but on the premise of how it will greatly benefit us all as a whole.
"Our tactical work is to build on the notion that we are one team working together to defend, to attack and ultimately win games one by one as they come, as one team."
Stewart, filling in for Mike Beshiri, who was deployed to Iraq in the fall, is a former Patriot himself who realizes the magnitude of teamwork on and off the field.
"Our biggest strength is that we understand that no one player alone can do anything. It will not only take 11 players doing their best on a given night, but that it will take 20 guys putting in the extra work in training every day," he said. "This is not just limited to our current team, but to also encourage and support the program as a whole.
"The JV and ninth grade teams are just as much part of our success, as they add to our depth and continue to push us to the next level."
Led by seniors Oscar Corona and Ross Sellers, the Patriots return a plethora of talent this season. In the back and in goal are Josh Alexy, Paul Bates and John Barnes.
Tyler Peoples and Corona are continuing to develop a great partnership in the central midfield, according to Stewart. In addition, Young Shinn and Se Hoon Ahn should give Heritage plenty of depth in the back and midfield.
Despite the emphasis on cooperation from everyone, there will certainly be times when this is tested. However, the goal for the 2009 Patriots remains the same - win the county, win region and win state.
Heritage's first test comes Tuesday in its season opener against Grayson.
"I think Grayson, so early in the schedule, will give us a good measuring point to where our team is coming out of the gate," Stewart said. "Playing a big Gwinnett school early will show us the speed at which we've progressed through the preseason and where we need to improve heading into the region portion of our campaign. I think the same can apply to playing at Kennesaw, as the Roswell/Marietta area has good soccer.
"These will be great tests for us in preparation for the county matches, which always present the challenges of local rivalries."
Jason Murdock can be reached at email@example.com.
Team: Heritage boys soccer
Coach: Brandon Stewart (first year)
Last year's record: 11-7-0, lost to Lakeside-DeKalb 2-0 in first round of Class AAAA state playoffs
First game: Tuesday vs. Grayson
Key returning players: Josh Alexy, John Barnes, Paul Bates, Oscar Corona, Ross Sellers, Tyler Peoples