When your team is the top dog in a league, you have a figurative target painted on your back.
Every team is out to beat you and plays their best game against you. A team is not awarded such reverence overnight; it comes from winning and often dominating a league, season after season.
It’s bred from accomplishment.
The Brookings-Harbor boys soccer team, which won last year’s Far West League title and were crowned co-champions with North Bend the year before, know they are the target of every other team in the league, and that’s just how they like it.
“I want us to be a big target,” said senior center back Tim Sullivan. “I want them to try to take us out. It makes it more challenging.”
The senior will get his wish, as the Bruins, who have lost just one regular season game the past two seasons, have now established themselves as the top program in the Far West League.
“Our team is definitely a target,” said BHHS head coach Gabe Anaya who is entering his fifth overall year as head coach. “For other teams, we are a measurement. If they play good against us it can make their season. It’s good for us because we cannot slow down. We have to remain focused every game.”
Remaining focused they have, as last year’s 2-1 loss to Cottage Grove in the first round of the OSAA 4A Playoffs left a bad taste of defeat that the Bruins have carried with them for a year.
“A lot of players came out in the preseason and have been lifting weights and getting their footwork up to par before the season even starts so that’s good to see,” said Sullivan. “It definitely motivates you because (the playoff loss) wasn’t just.”
Though they lost five key seniors off of last year’s team, the Bruins return seven starters and are loaded with talent.
Sullivan and sophomore center midfielder Alex Anaya were both selected to the first team all-league last season and return to lead the Bruins.
Senior forward David Daniels is the top returning scorer and provides great attacking speed on the frontline and also possesses an ability to score with finishing headers in the goal box.
Senior midfielder Fernando Villa, who Anaya states is great at ball control and solid in the defensive midfield, also returns to assist the team in their possessive, ball-control style of game play.
“We like to play a possession game,” said Anaya. “We don’t like to play long ball at all. I tell the kids, “If the ball is in the air it’s a 50/50 possession. We do a lot of keep-away drills where we play with pressure and you need to be moving and finding your teammates to keep possession. That way, when they are pressured in the game, they don’t panic because they are used to it.”
The BHHS boys soccer team begins their season on Friday, Aug. 29 at the Phoenix High School Jamboree before traveling to play Hidden Valley on Sept. 2.