MAHOMET — Mahomet-Seymour boys’ soccer won 31 games over the last two years. Corey Cebulski was the best goalkeeper. Ethan Mansfield was the best midfielder. Head coach Jeremy Davis raved about Mac Majeres’ impact as the top defenseman. Austin Carr might have been the best striker in the entire area.
Cebulski, Mansfield, Majeres and Carr all graduated last year in addition to six other key seniors. That leaves holes all over the field, and as M-S gets ready to embark on the 2019 season, Davis is forced to press the right buttons to fill the gaps.
“There’s a lot of question marks on who is going to fill which roles, no question,” Davis said.
“As we get closer, I get a little more excited because we get to answer these questions and you find out where people are going to start to be. I definitely think we’ll look a lot different in a month than we do in the first two or three weeks.”
Colten Brunner, Jacob Janda and Kadyn Jones are three seniors who could step up. Janda and Jones proved last year that they can score with the best of them, but Brunner will play a key role this year.
“Brunner is going to be critical for us this year because of his role sitting on top of the defense as a midfielder,” Davis said. “He’s definitely the most important player on the team right now because of his role and setting how we play defensively and holding together a back line that hasn’t played together.”
Goalkeeper won’t be a problem as senior Sam Knight showcased at times last year that he can be very good. The 6-foot-4, 200-pounder is a great athlete with much-needed length. Sophomore Keagon Ashby is another goalkeeper that Davis is fired up about.
“That’s one position that I’m not concerned at all about,” Davis said. “We have two excellent goalkeepers. Both of those guys will be very good goalkeepers this year. That’s one of the few positions I’m not concerned about. Even with an injury, we have someone who’s going to be fantastic.”
Scoring goals shouldn’t be a problem, and the goalkeeping seems like it’s in good hands, so the X-factor is going to be the defense. It’s really all hands on deck. Seniors Austin Brummel, Luke Creel, Charles Moore and Caleb Benedict have all been around the block. Sophomores Justin Straub and Koby Eisenmenger are both athletic and talented, and junior Daniel Renshaw proved that he’s a great athlete on the wrestling mat.
“I do think we can see some younger guys there playing or older guys,” Davis said. “I really don’t know. They bring different things. The youth are more athletic, with an up-and-down style versus the older guys are a little more steady defenders but are not going to be jumping into the attack as much as some of the young guys. That could change a lot in a month.”
M-S was one of the top teams in the Apollo Conference last year, and they’ll be put to the test again. Mattoon has edged M-S for a regional title in each of the past three years. All the losses have been by one goal. But Davis knows that Mt. Zion is going to be really good yet again too.
“We haven’t beaten Mattoon in the last three years, so that will be a top priority, but I honestly think that Mt. Zion is probably favored over both us,” Davis said. “They finished second over us last year. We ted with them and lost on a last-second goal down there. They return basically everybody. Now, Mattoon has a great program but they are going to have to replace a really talented senior class, but again, they will definitely be tough. They’ll always be fantastically coached. They’ll be a challenge but hopefully, we’ll be right there in the mix.”
The Bulldogs have plenty of unknowns. But there’s a culture of winning that’s been fostered over the last few years, and guys who haven’t gotten much playing time are itching to shine. While they might not be chasing the single-season wins record — 16 victories set by the 2017 squad — there’s no doubt that M-S has big aspirations for 2019.
“We have a lot of new pieces,” Davis said. “It’d be hard to say we’ll play at that level. Do I think we can? Yeah, I do. In terms of wins, it might not be the same amount of wins, but I think we’ll be able to play up to that level. Last year, we had the hardest schedule in Class 2A in the state according to MaxPreps. That should be the same thing this year.”
The Bulldogs open play on Tuesday, Aug. 27, at home against Metamora. It’ll all get started at 6:30 p.m. at Middletown Field.
“We’ll find out a lot of who we are in the first two weeks but it’ll also answer a lot of questions about who is able to play at a high level,” Davis added. “Hopefully we can challenge for a regional title this year. We haven’t been able to make that jump in the last two years, but this group should definitely be in the mix.”