New M-S coach looks to keep building on recent success

For the last two varsity coaching hires, Mahomet-Seymour High School has kept it in-house.

In May, M-S promoted Stacey Buzicky from volleyball junior varsity coach to varsity head coach.

About a month ago, former junior varsity boys' soccer coach and current M-S science teacher Jeremy Davis was hired as the boys' varsity coach.

One of Davis' top priorities as head coach is to keep building on the program's recent success of competing with the larger schools in the area.

This was not always the case.

Davis remembers playing for the Bulldogs' soccer team in its infancy during the late '90s.

"We were not near the skill of the Champaign teams at the time," Davis said. "I coached here about 10 years ago.We had made growth for a few years, but still consistently struggle with the larger school in the areas. I still remember my team destroyed by Urbana on the junior varsity level."

Even before Davis was offeredthe job, he had been making sure the players would be prepared for the season.

"We (he and another teacher) met before school got out and decided that we wanted to get the boys training regardless of the coaching uncertainty," Davis said.

"They have been consistently lifting and playing with one another throughout the summer. I have been there for most of it. I let them know (at the time) I was not their coach, but wanted to make sure whoever came in and took over would have a prepared group of kids."

What no player could prepare for was the tragic death of teammate Jacob Hamilton in May, which will make Davis' first year unique.

Davis met earlier with the team to discuss where they wanted to go and what they wanted to do to keep honoring Hamilton.

"We have a lot of little things planned, yet in the end nothing really feels significant enough," Davis said. "I have spent a lot of time trying to figure out how to best honor Jacob."

Some smaller recognition will come with plans to have his initials and numbers on the players' jerseys.

The warm-ups will be light blue for Hamilton's favorite soccer club, Manchester City, and the coach and players are looking into having something spray-painted on the field.

In addition, Hamilton's uniform No. 2 will not be used this season.

On the field, Davis' team goals are to win the Apollo Conference and regional.

Davis' personal goal for the team is not so much about the record.

"I expect our boys to grow both on and off the field," he said. "I will have high expectations of our players, and hold them accountable when they do not meet those.

"I worry more about how we positively change the off-the-field expectations and supports. I am confident wins will come when we have a culture of accountability, and support each other relentlessly."

Hamilton's death not only affects the players and team, it also directly affects Davis.

Before the accident, Hamilton had been using his free period to help out Davis, and inevitably, the conversation would turn to soccer.

When Hamilton had learned that former coach Andrew Kennedy was stepping down, Hamilton was worried about the team and the program.

So Hamilton talked to the team and organizeda meeting to discuss where the program was going.

"He wasn't going to wait for a new coach on getting kids into the gym and getting them prepared for this season," Davis said. "He was putting the burden on his shoulders and was going to take care of it himself. Unfortunately, that meeting was planned for the day after he was involved in the accident."

The team had its last camp session last week, and on Hamilton's birthday (July 20) most of the players got togetherto watch Hamilton's favorite soccer team play.

"When my time with this program is over, my success will not be in the wins and losses," Davis said. "It will be in the kids that go through this program.

"To me, the best way to honor who Jacob was to is to push this set of boys, and the next, and the next, and so on and so forth to be better men and to be better leaders of men. That is what we lost, and maybe, just maybe with enough kids down the line we can make up just a bit of what we lost with Jacob's passing."

Currently, the Bulldogs are working on hiring a junior varsity coach.

Last season, the boys' soccer team suffered a heartbreaking defeat during the Class 2A regional championship against Mattoon at Centennial High School in Champaign.

M-S finished with an 11-8-1 record.

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