Cougars looking strong on pitch after state semifinal run last season
SHENANDOAH JUNCTION – Jefferson head coach Chris Steffey led the Cougars to the state semifinals last year during his first season atop the local boys’ high school soccer program.
Steffey sees no reason why this year’s squad can’t be equally competitive.
Jack Barrat, Jacob Lowe and Teo Garces each scored goals Saturday afternoon as Jefferson opened the 2014 season with a 3-2 victory over visiting University in Shenandoah Junction.
The Cougars jumped out in front and held a 3-0 lead with roughly 15 minutes remaining before the Hawks reached the scoreboard with goals by Tyler Hart and Holden Talton.
The Jefferson boys’ game was the third contest on the field Saturday afternoon, a venue that saw considerable rain last weekend.
“It was a very messy game,” Steffey said. “They made a little comeback, got some momentum. But we were still able to do what we needed to do.
“We have a very good attack this year, very dynamic.”
Defending regional champion Jefferson was scheduled to return to action after press time Tuesday with a road game against fellow Eastern Panhandle Athletic Conference rival Hedgesville.
After nine days off, the Cougars are then scheduled to host last year’s regional runner-up Buckhannon-Upshur on Sept. 5 and then EPAC rival Martinsburg on Sept. 9.
Jefferson then takes to the road for four games in five days, including contests against Wheeling Park and Morgantown.
“That’s going to be a tough little stretch,” Steffey said.
Last fall, Jefferson (17-3-2) won the regional title with a victory over Buckhannon-Upshur 1-0 before advancing to the Class AAA state semifinals against eventual state champion George Washington.
The Cougars lost an intense defensive struggle against the undefeated Patriots 1-0 on a free kick.
Jefferson enters the 2014 campaign after having graduated a wealth of talent from last year’s team, including first-team all-state defender Austin Doughty.
The Cougars also graduated honorable mention all-state midfielders Tyler Steffey and Tucker Ryan, as well as honorable mention defender Austin Ogden.
“There was a lot of talent and quality in that group there,” Steffey said. “But there’s a lot of talent on this team. There’s no reason why we won’t have a winning record. This team is a team that could win 15 to 18 games.”
Jefferson welcomes back five starters to its possession-style, combination offense, including Barrat, Lowe and Garces, as well as Anthony Wenner and Lane Butts.
Steffey said the Cougars’ lineup is also bolstered by the likes of Kyle Baker, Deighton Stuart and Bryan Wagner.
Goalie Daniel Hussion will be the last line of defense.
“If (Hussion) can stay healthy, he’ll be fantastic,” Steffey said.
Steffey said the key to this season would be establishing consistency. He said last year’s team was strong, but a pair of lapses – a 5-0 loss to Martinsburg and a 4-0 loss to Morgantown – still rankle him.
“We laid two eggs last year,” Steffey said. “My goal is, even if we lose this year, we’re not going to lay an egg. We’re going to stay competitive and keep it close and give ourselves a chance to win.”
In other action on Saturday, the Jefferson varsity girls’ soccer team defeated University 2-1 in Shenandoah Junction.
No additional information about that game was immediately available.