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Scoring punch keys state title repeat hopes for FHS soccer

The situation is questionable up top, with a pair of All-state talents long gone, and there’s a new goalkeeper to break in for the defending Class AAA boys soccer state champion Farragut Admirals.

But Admirals skipper Wallie Culbreth, beginning his seventh season as head coach, is thrilled with his 2008 midfield and defense. That’s where the bulk of his 12 seniors can be found.

“I’m real strong defensively and midfield,” said Culbreth, who has won three state titles and one national crown at FHS.

Returning starters are led by Joseph Muth, senior All-Region 2-AAA and All-District 4-AAA defender, and Jake Holt, senior All-Region and All-District center midfielder.

Muth said “you have a high turnover of guys every year” following graduation, “and so it’s not a matter of repeating, it’s a matter of just winning again. And with new guys it’s like a fresh team every year.”

After the loss of All-state talent, Muth said the 2008 Admirals “are more of a team now, we’re a bunch of very good players as opposed to a team that’s stacked.”

About dealing with the pressure of being defending state champs, Holt said “we’re always going to be looked at as the team to beat. We’ve got to play even harder. ... We know what we’ve got to do, we’re going to take care of it. I think we can do it.”

Other returning starters are senior defender Aaron Stinton, sophomore defender Ryan Stinton, senior midfielder Tyler Mottern and right midfielder Josh Riner, a senior.

“I’ve got so many good midfielders and defenders I’ve got to turn some of them into forwards,” Culbreth said. “I’ve got a lot of kids who played a lot of minutes last year.”

As for a specific team quality, “I’ve got an extreme lot of speed this year,” the coach said. “Overall I’m faster than last year.”

As for depth, “I’ve got a lot of good competition for a lot of spots,” Culbreth added.

With a starting spot still open at left midfield, Culbreth said the battle is on between seniors John Chancey and Brian James and junior Angus McClellan.

“I’m getting a 110 percent out of them,” the coach added.

Nic Muth, a sophomore, “is just an outstanding player,” Culbreth said. “He’s going to be on the field somewhere.”

Trevor Grieco, a junior, “played a lot of good minutes for me last year until he broke his hip in the middle of the season,” the coach said.

Sophomore defender Nic Peterson “is really showing well,” Culbreth said.

Despite the lack of experience at forward, “I have just been knocked off my socks by Travis Bolton this year,” Culbreth said about one of his new forwards, a senior. “Travis has been our smallest player every year, but this year he comes back and he’s as tall as I am. He’s grown several inches, and his skill level is up. And I am just so impressed with the way he is playing.

“He has just been unbelievable with a nose for the goal,” Culbreth added. “I was concerned about our scoring ability, but somebody’s going to have to stop Travis. He’s the real deal.”

Otherwise, “I’m working with different players trying to figure out what I’m going to put up there,” the FHS skipper said.

Senior forward Andrew Mosier, whose last-minute game-winning direct kick from about 20 yards out beat Bearden 5-4 in the state title game last May, has been out most for most of the preseason due to illness.

“He’s lost a lot of weight,” Culbreth said, adding that Mosier “is very talented. If I get him back, I’ll have a good one-two punch.”

Perhaps to no one’s surprise, “If Mosier gets back he’ll be taking all my direct kicks,” Culbreth added. “He’s unbelievable.”

Others in the forward mix include senior Will Beuerlein, who Culbreth said “will definitely be an asset to this team, as will Drew Hemeter [senior] and Josh Grossbard [senior].”

Culbreth said three goalkeepers are vying for the starting job: sophomore Steven Matlock, a transfer from Lenoir City “who is the O-D-P goalie for the age older than him,” Culbreth said.

Junior Shea Beltran, the Admirals junior varsity goalkeeper in 2007, and senior John Beaver also are in the mix.

Junior Tyler Pack also looks to contribute this season.

A problem with complacency coming off a state championship season?

“I think it’s a great opportunity to try and repeat,” Culbreth said. “I’m not going to take anything away from [Bearden head coach] Eric [Turner], he’s going to be stoked this year, his offensive punch.

“Maryville returns most of their players, and so does Oak Ridge,” Culbreth added about district and region talent. “And West had a great team last year and they return most of their players.”

What about chances of repeating as state champions?

“I think we’ve got as good a chance as anybody to win the state championship,” Culbreth said. “We’re not down. We’re going to miss some of the great players that we had, but this is not a down year.”

One advantage of not having star power at forward? “Nobody’s relying on any one person,” Culbreth said.

The Farragut head coach said his program originated, on a local level, the motto “Refuse to Lose,” back in 2003. It lives on with the 2008 Admirals.

“Even some of the Farragut teams have taken it and put ‘Refuse to Lose’ on their shirts,” Culbreth added.

Biggest concern? “To get them mentally prepared for a season where everybody has a target on our backs,” Culbreth said.


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