Looking to build off last year’s winning season
The Franklin High School Panthers men's varsity soccer team will kick off the season Monday, Aug. 19, with a game against the Murphy Bulldogs at the home field at Macon Middle School.
Led by coach Ken Neitz, the team will look to carry momentum from last year when it ended its season with a 12-11 record.
“I don't know if we're going to have a better year because you really never know how your opponents are going to play, but I can say that I think we have a very talented team,” said Neitz. “This is the fifth year that I have coached the team and I think this is the best team I've seen as in pure talent.”
Their first outing against the Bulldogs could be a close one if it follows the pace of last year's games. The Panthers won both games with a score of 1-0 at home, and 4-1 in Murphy. This year, Neitz thinks that the Bulldogs will bring a similar game plan like the one the Panthers employed against them last season.
“We've beat the Bulldogs the last four years. Last year, the coach was very complimentary towards us and actually adapted his team to play more like us for the remainder of their season,” he said. “So when they come over next week, there's a good chance that we'll be playing a team that will be a mirror image of us. It should be interesting and a good test to start the season with.”
The team will have nine returning players, one of which was a top scorer last season.
“We lost two of our three top scorers from last year, one graduated and one was a foreign exchange student, but we still have one. I think he scored 12 goals,” said Neitz. “There's other kids too that are going to be strong players this year.”
The team may have only had a winning season last year by one game, but Neitz hopes to continue to build off of that. The addition of a junior varsity team will help with this year's efforts as well with some of them having the opportunity to move up to the varsity team.
“The addition of a JV team is going to be really beneficial. There's some good kids playing and at least five of them could move up to the varsity team. At this point, we're still filling some important spots. There's some talented players vying for these positions,” he said.
Monday's game will take place at Macon Middle School at 5 p.m. The first conference game will come on Sept. 11 against the Pisgah Bears. The Panthers beat the Bears in both games last year, 6-0 and 6-1.
The JV team also has more spots to fill if any students are interested in playing. Neitz also emphasized that any students who have moved to FHS and want to play can contact him.
“It could be a good opportunity for them to not only play, but also possibly play for the varsity team,” said Neitz.