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The Liberty boys' soccer team recently got together to watch the movie "Miracle." The flick, about the U.S. Olympic Hockey team's preparation for, and defeat of, the mighty Soviet Union's team, could serve as an inspiration for the Minutemen's upcoming season.
The message of that movie was that players had to think of their team first, putting personal ambitions on the back burner. "I don't want just talent," said Head Coach T Fox. "I want that talent to play as a unit."
With Jefferson Forest clearly the big, bad guys on the block, the question is whether the Minutemen can follow the teamwork example of that 1980 U.S. team.
Leadership will be a clear requirement to do so. Toward that end, tri-captains Eli White, Drew Padgett and Justin Hintzen should be able to help build some unity of effort across the squad.
White, who missed a good portion of last season while injured, is a long drink of water who leads the defense from his stopper position. One of the smartest students at Liberty, White's intelligence translates into cool thinking on the field.
Padgett, returning as keeper for the fourth year, is just as smart as White. His experience will be immensely important to the team.
Hintzen, the "Berlin Wall," is an exchange student from Deutchland and is stout on defense. The goal is to have his great understanding of the game spread to his teammates.
To be sure, there is substantial talent on this squad. Watts Burks, Charlie Parker and Jared Fogus were all second team All-District selectees last season.
Burks, a junior midfielder, has great energy and enthusiasm. He may play in the center of the midfield, or may move to the outside because of his stamina.
Parker, a senior forward, is the fastest player on the team, by far. Fox is looking for a breakout year for him.
Fogus, a junior defender, is very reliable and should come on strong as he works his way through the season.
Tyler Gilchrist, who was team MVP as a sophomore last year, is a proven athlete who also plays on the Liberty golf and basketball teams. "He covers mover ground than two people," said Fox. "Like no one I've ever seen."
Senior Andrew Easterling offers a fine example of what type of attitude the Minutemen need to succeed. The senior won the "Coach's Award" last year for his perseverance. "He never gets disgruntled, always gives 100% and never complains," noted Fox.
Junior Dyllan Thomas is another speedster. An intelligent player, Thomas makes up for a lack of height (5' 7") with a thunderous foot, the best on the team.
The team is a good blend of sophomores (5), juniors (8) and seniors (5). Fox, in his first year at the helm, is setting his sights on finishing well up in the Seminole and to advance beyond the first round of the Regionals.
While those objectives are more modest than were those of the team in "Miracle," there is no doubt that the teamwork and dedication will have to be at that same high level in order to achieve them.