Sports

District loaded with talent again, including defending state champs

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

Things couldn’t have finished better for the Thomas Jefferson Raiders last season. The Raiders accomplished the ultimate by winning the Class 4A state championship with a 2-1 win over Pasco in the title game.

But it’s a new year and head coach Darren Sawatzky is watching a lot of new players take the field for the most successful boys soccer program in the state.

“Thomas Jefferson has always had competitive soccer teams and we expect 2006 to be the same,” said head coach Darren Sawatzky.

The tradition of the Thomas Jefferson boy’s soccer program is unmatched in the state of Washington. The Raiders have won a total of 16 South Puget Sound League titles and seven state championships — the most is state history.

But last year’s run to the Class 4A title might have been the most surprising of those championships. The Raiders finished up in third place in the SPSL South Division before rolling through the postseason, eventually beating Pasco in the title game, 2-1.

But this year’s team will have an entirely different look than a season ago. Jefferson graduated a total of 10 players off of the state championship team and the Raiders have been showing their youth early in the season. Jefferson lost its first two non-league matches of the season to Auburn Riverside and Auburn last week.

Gone from last year are a pair of All-State performers in Lamar Neagle and Brandon Sprague. Both are currently playing at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. Neagle tallied 28 goals and was named the Class 4A State Player of the Year in 2005 and Sprague was the rock of the TJ defense.

Sawatzky does return four players who played key roles during the state playoffs a season ago in goalkeeper Tyler Jeffcoat, midfielder Tyler Hanson, defender Josh Hauck and midfielder Scott Williams. Jefferson will also be counting on newcomer Chris Miller to play a key role in their back line of defense.

Beamer

The Titans program has become a regular in the postseason during their first two years of existence. Beamer has finished in the top-four in the SPSL South both seasons, including a 7-1-1 record last year.

That shouldn’t change this year. The Titans return plenty of talent from 2005, including several senior leaders. Back are seniors Peyton Lane, Tyler Brigham, Travis Elmquist and Taylor Lane, as well as talented juniors Sean Davis, Brennen Hall, Ricco Sanchez, John Lentz and TJ Young. Also helping out will be freshmen newcomers Dalton Thomas, Tyson Sykes and Jordan Hale.

“In 2005, we graduated just two players and with the addition of five talented freshmen, we will field a pretty solid lineup,” said head coach Adam Kulaas. “Many of the boys play club soccer together and have great relationships.”

Beamer should be battling with the other Federal Way school district teams for the SPSL South championship. Last year, three of the four playoff berths from the league were occupied by Federal Way district schools.

“The SPSL is always a very tough league,” Kulaas said. “I look for the Federal way schools to do very well and as a team, we will prepare one game at a time for a run in postseason play.”

Decatur

Former Decatur High School graduate Justyn Scholze walked into a pretty good situation when he took over his alma mater’s soccer program this season from two-time state champion coach Jimmy McAlister. The 1998 grad returns the most heralded soccer player in the state and has a roster filled with all-leaguers.

“I really can’t complain about the soccer players at Decatur,” Scholze said. “They all know how to play.”

Senior midfielder Ciaran O’Brien returns as the reigning Gatorade State Soccer Player of the Year and will receive a bulk of the attention for the Gators. O’Brien has already committed to attend the University of San Diego.

“He’s obviously very talented,” Scholze said. “It’s just going to be interesting trying to find the right mix of players to fit around him.”

But Decatur also brings back the ultra-talented Josh Norwood, who can play any position on the field. Norwood is most likely headed to the University of Connecticut next year, according to Scholze. Also back for the Gators will be Reymund Mills, Kyle Estlick, Jamie Shivel, Kevin Day and Erik Orozco.

“Everyone likes to talk about the playoffs at the start of the season,” Scholze said. “But we just have to take it one game at a time.”

The Gators will get a good gauge of where they are at early in the season on Tuesday when they will take on the defending state-champion Thomas Jefferson Raiders in a non-league match at Federal Way Memorial Stadium.

Federal Way

The Federal Way Eagles will look to improve on last year’s 5-8-3 record in the SPSL South.

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