Something to prove
Tonganoxie soccer ready to emerge from KVL cellar
The past two seasons of Tonganoxie High boys soccer haven’t been too glamorous — the Chieftains found themselves at the bottom of the Kaw Valley League standings in ’07 and ’08.
In that span, THS is 6-27-1. The Chieftains realize they have a lot to prove. And they are ready to do just that.
“Those are just bad years,” senior co-captain Tyler Woolworth said, indicating the past has no bearing on the 2009 campaign.
Fellow co-captain Bret Koch agreed, saying Tonganoxie is in the same boat as every team.
“Whether you’re a state-winning team or you can’t make it through the first round of regionals,” the senior said, “you always come out the next year with something to prove.”
According to fifth-year THS coach Ken Lott, his squad doesn’t receive the respect of traditional KVL powers.
“I’ve always considered us to be underdogs because we don’t have those people that play premier and club,” he said. “I think a lot of teams overlook us.”
But that doesn’t mean the Chieftains are content with their place at the bottom of the league. They intend for results to be much different this season.
“I’d like to think we’re going to turn the tables on most everybody,” Lott said.
Signs of improvement
Thoughts and words won’t turn things around. The team needs action, and Woolworth said there have been signs of change, namely more dedication, teamwork and leadership.
“Everyone’s all here for the team,” the senior forward said.
The players’ positive attitude in spite of the past few years has become one of the team’s biggest strengths.
“I don’t think we have anybody on the team that is in the mind set of ‘it’s all about me,’” Lott said. “It’s a team effort and there are some players on the team that can do things but I think they realize they need the rest of the team’s help.”
That help starts with a large senior class of 10. Koch and Woolworth are joined by returning varsity players Andrew Bouza, Mitch DeHoff, Preston Putthoff, Keaton Schaffer, Kenny Schultz and Matt Titterington, as well as Stan Geyer and Brandon Hubbard.
That’s not all the Chieftains have to offer. Junior Quinten Olson has already established himself as a team motivator, and fellow junior Jake Willis, a defender, might be Tonganoxie’s fastest player.
Sophomore Joseph Parrino will contend with Koch, Schultz and Woolworth for playing time at forward. Elsewhere, sophomores Tyler Bartholomew, Matt Briggs, Cody Martin and Marcus Titterington should see varsity minutes, as could freshmen Matt Saathoff and Keaton Truesdell.
Although Tonganoxie’s defense has outperformed its offense in recent years, the Chieftains plan to change that as well. Woolworth said the offense is coming around and should have more variety this season, as crosses have been on target and touches have looked “amazing.” Koch said the speed of the attackers has been better, too.
Lott said THS had to improve its offense.
“We’ve come to the determination that defense may win championships but you’ve got to score in order to get to the championship game, so we’re looking at creating an offense that we can attack with,” the coach said.
Now that the Chieftains have what they believe is a more complete and competitive product, they are eager to get on the pitch and prove they are no pushovers. Lott wants to get the season started as much as the players.
“I’m just as tired of losing games as they are,” he said.
With improved attitudes and more team bonding, Koch predicted this year would be much different than the past two.
“I think people should watch out,” he said. “I’m not gonna talk us up and say that we’re gonna win state but it’s just a different team this year.”
Woolworth said Tonganoxie is no longer a squad opponents should look forward to playing.
“I don’t think we’re going to get knocked around anymore,” he said.
The Chieftains’ season begins at 6 p.m. Friday when they play host to Baldwin at Chieftain Park.