To say Big Foot/Williams Bay’s soccer co-op was the youngest team in the area last year is not a stretch. With only four seniors on the squad, and six freshmen and five sophomores, underclassmen vastly outnumbered the experienced team leaders.
As such, the season’s results on paper were not too great, with a 3-15-2 record for the ChiefDogs.
With 10 sophomores on this year’s team compared to seven seniors, it will likely be another season of growing pains for BFWB. But by the end of the season, when these youngsters have nearly two seasons of varsity action under their belts, it could be an exciting glimpse into the future of the program.
“With having such a young team, right now we’re just working on becoming a team and working together,” senior captain John McHugh said. “We’re hoping to see a difference from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, and hopefully it’s in our favor.”
A big reason for the Big Foot/Williams Bay youth movement is sheer demographic luck: The two schools happen to have a large crop of freshmen and sophomore boys.
However, head coach Keith Blakeman believes part of the large numbers is thanks to the success of local youth clubs.
“If they’re being effective at the youth level and coaching from a young age, they keep more kids playing because they’re enjoying it and learning and getting better,” Blakeman said. “But if we don’t have effective coaching, then we start to see a lot of kids leave at around 12 years old, then that’s fewer and fewer that come to the high school.”
Big Foot/Williams Bay’s strength this season will likely be its forwards, most notably two-time All-Conference senior Emmanuel Carreno. With a number of last year’s defenders gone, Blakeman has been working with some of the team’s attackers to shift backwards in an attempt to fill those gaps.
Many of the ChiefDogs’ Rock Valley Conference foes will have senior-heavy rosters this season, which will make BFWB’s goal of finishing in the top half of the conference a difficult, but obtainable, challenge. The flip side of that is when their foes have more inexperienced squads in a year, it will be Big Foot/Williams Bay’s time to shine.
“The sophomores are getting bigger and stronger and more experienced, so we’re building on what success we had last year,” Blakeman said. “So we’re very excited about the next couple of years, and trying to teach them everything we can now, so we’ll be more successful.”