Just one week of the season has passed, but Genoa-Kingston coach Randy Tate has already seen his team progress immensely.
The Cogs lost their opener to Somonauk, 7-1, last week, but Saturday, they played a comparable Hinckley-Big Rock team all the way to overtime in the Stillman Valley Tournament semifinals. They eventually lost, but Tate was happy with the progress he saw over his team’s first five matches.
“We came a long way since the beginning of the week,” Tate said. “We came together as a team and started to play more under control, doing a little more passing and working the ball. Defensively, we were staying in position and pushing the ball better than we were earlier in the week.”
The Cogs, no doubt, look quite a bit different from a year ago. G-K lost a few offensive stars, but Tate also thinks he has plenty of players who can handle the offensive load. With a strong early-season schedule, the Cogs will find out quickly where they stand.
“I think [the scoring is] definitely going to be spread out this year. We’re going to score out of the midfield more than we did last year.” Tate said. “We could do well in the long run. We’re playing against some pretty tough teams early in the season, so I think that’s going to help us out in the long run, too.”
Mereness emerges for the Spartans: Sycamore coach Dave Lichamer wasn’t happy with his team’s 0-3 record at the Auburn Tournament, but he did see freshman Austin Mereness emerge as a scorer.
Mereness scored the Spartans’ only two goals of the tournament.
“I knew he was a skilled player,” Lichamer said. “When he came out at tryouts, he demonstrated some, not just physical ability, but a mental ability to be able to hang at the varsity level. I thought he was doing a tremendous job he certainly has a good shot on his foot, and he displayed some great character in and around the box. Both of [his goals], he had to really fight off a defender to get and beat a keeper also. That was a great bright spot on the weekend.”
The Spartans were missing a few key players during Labor Day weekend, so Lichamer learned plenty about the depth of his group.
“We certainly learned what some of our strengths and weaknesses were, what we need to focus on for the team as far as learning some other roles they have on the team,” he said. “It was a learning process, but it was certainly a learning process that was forced on us with all the people that were gone.”
VIEWS: Plenty of rebuilding to be done from area's smallest schools
Hinckley-Big Rock won its second straight Stillman Valley Tournament over the weekend, but observers may not recognize many of the returning Royals.
Paul Taeuber’s team has reloaded with plenty of quality talent, but graduation of most of his top attacking players, including two-time Daily Chronicle Player of the Year Bernie Conley, may take some time to overcome.
H-BR isn’t the only small team in the area that will have to reload after losing a strong group of players.
Indian Creek was hit hard by graduation, but that wasn’t the only way the T-Wolves suffered. Leading scorer Matt Shroka, a sophomore, moved to Oswego. The Timberwolves’ leading returning scorer, Gavin Eberly, scored three goals last year. It’s safe to say someone new will have to step up for the Timberwolves to be competitive.
After maintaining a consistently high level over the first two years of existence as a varsity program, Hiawatha lost nine seniors last year who were integral in the program’s strong first few seasons.
At small schools, maintaining consistency is difficult with a small pool of students to pick from.
After a strong year in 2012 for the area’s smallest schools, standards may have to be a bit different in 2013. But with strong coaching, they should all be back to where they were as highly competitive teams in no time.
• Anthony Zilis is contributor for the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at email@example.com.
Dylan Hottsmith, DeKalb, Senior
Hottsmith scored three goals in DeKalb's run to another Barb Cup championship. After shining as a running back for the DeKalb football team over the last few years, Hottsmith has taken on an integral role on an already strong DeKalb team.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Somonauk at H-BR, 7 p.m. today
Two of the top small schools in the area square off in a Little Ten Conference showdown under the lights.
Indian Creek at Genoa-Kingston, 4:30 p.m. Thursday
The T-wolves and Cogs meet Thursday in a battle of teams that are forced to retool this season.
DeKalb at Geneva, Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
An old Western Sun Conference matchup will reconvene when the Barbs and Vikings play Thursday. This match against a top opponent could be telling for DeKalb.
1. DeKalb (3-0) – DeKalb took home another Barb Cup title Saturday and may hold this spot for quite awhile.
2. Hinckley-Big Rock (4-0-2) – The Royals won the Stillman Valley Tournament during the weekend for the second consecutive year.
3. Kaneland (1-1-1) – The Knights finished .500 in three games at the Jacobs Tournament during the weekend, with Iganacio Toscano scoring the lone goal of the season thus far.
4. Genoa-Kingston (2-3) – The highlight of the Cogs' weekend came when they took H-BR to overtime in the semifinal of the Stillman Valley Tournament.
5. Sycamore (0-3) – The Spartans had a rough go while missing a few key players at the Auburn Tournament.
6. Hiawatha (0-0) – The Hawks host Paw Paw today in their second match of the week.
7. Indian Creek (0-0) – The Timberwolves will try to rebuild during the early part of the season after losing a few key players.