It's a season of growth and competition for the boys soccer programs
This past June was the FIFA World Cup for men's soccer and the momentum shifted into the high schools for the upcoming fall boys soccer season.
East Ridge, Woodbury and New Life Academy are facing its own individual problems, but all of them have the same goal in mind.
That goal is to win sections and put themselves into the state tournament.
"You need the whole team to do their part for a team to be successful," said East Ridge junior Reese Dodd. "This year, the team looks strong and should be a fun season."
Last season, the Raptors went 9-3-2 in the regular season, but were bounced off of sections early with a 1-0 loss to Woodbury. Head coach Anthony Boswell said there's a lot of parity within the conference as there's always a couple teams that are atop the standings and then there's a few teams that are fighting for those top spots every season.
Bidwell believes this Raptors team will be able to compete with the top teams in the conference and continue its excellence from last season. He's also hoping to see this team play soccer the way the world enjoys watching the sport of soccer.
"I'm hoping we're starting to play soccer the way it's meant to be played," Bidwell said. "We have players that have higher soccer IQ's and play as a team."
The Woodbury Royals might've been able to beat East Ridge in section play last season, but they were stopped by Stillwater for a spot in the state tournament. The players are hoping to get past Stillwater and make that trip to the state tournament this season.
Woodbury finished last season with a 10-3 regular season record and went 2-1 in section play. This record placed the Royals second in the conference last season and head coach Joe Quintavalle has seen this team grow so much over the last couple of seasons.
"We have a lot of players returning this season that has understand that growth firsthand," Quintavalle said. "We also have added some younger players that are very talented as well, so it should be exciting to see how this season unfolds."
Cade Keesling and Scott Sampson have been a part of both the 2016 season when the Royals won two games and were young to the 2017 season when they won 10 games. That firsthand knowledge has helped these two grow into leaders and understand what it takes to reach these expectations of winning a section title and state title.
"It's great to see some of these younger players learn from the older players, so the traditions and expectations are passed down from generation to generation," Keesling said. "Now, we need to focus on this season and make sure we continue fighting for that section title and earning that spot in the state tournament."
The New Life Academy Eagles are seeing many new faces on the varsity team this season as the team brought back only two starters from last season.
The preseason has been filled with many learning opportunities for the young players, but senior captain Jackson George is looking forward to helping the future of this program. He's also excited to give his complete attention to his senior year this season and provide as much as he can before his high school career concludes.
"We have some really talented younger players that can build the future of this program," George said. "I can't wait to see some of that talent show this upcoming season."