Titans’ soccer team off to solid start

Published 12:00 am Thursday, September 12, 2019

By Marc Pruitt
For the Clemmons Courier

Coach Jeffrey Williams has been encouraged by what he has seen from the West Forsyth boys’ soccer team to this point of the season.

The Titans were 4-1-1 through their first six games with and won four straight by shutout after dropping their season-opening matchup against Wilmington Laney, 2-1.

West followed that up with wins against Cape Fear Academy (2-0), Raleigh Leesville Road (1-0), Forbush (2-0) and Watauga (5-0) before tying Lake Norman 2-2 last week.

With two away games against East Chapel Hill and Northwest Guilford on tap this week, Williams said that he knows his team has the potential to be even better than it was last season if they can capitalize on its opportunities and continue to develop consistency.

“This is the deepest team I’ve had as far as our numbers and the quality of our players,” Williams aid. “I’m used to having 17 or 18 and we’ve got 23. It makes for some great competition. What we are looking for with them right now is more consistency. We have a great group of guys. We are just trying to find that little extra piece to get us to the next level.”

West finished 17-5-2 (7-4 CPC 4A) after a loss in the second round of the NCHSAA 4-A state tournament.

The Titans return several key pieces of that team that graduated six seniors as well as a few newcomers who are already making an impact.

Senior forward John-John Dickenson will be one of the key players for the Titans. Dickenson was an all-region and all-state performer last season after scoring 31 goals and contributing four assists.

Williams will also lean on four-year starters Mason Paschold, who was also on the all-region team last season and midfielder Tyler Henson.

“Those guys give us a great returning core of experience and leadership,” Williams said. “John-John is capable of scoring any time he touches the ball. Mason, I think, has missed maybe a total of 10-15 minutes during his entire career here, and Tyler is part of the glue for us. We’ve got a total of eight seniors on the team and we’ve got plenty of great pieces around them.”

One of the talented newcomers is Jesse Guzman, a junior midfielder who currently leads the team in points (goals scored plus assists).

“Jesse had a great year on the JV team last season and has blended right in at the varsity level,” Williams said. “He and Daniel Bustos, who we brought up towards the end of the season last year from JV, are key pieces in our attack.”

Two newcomers are splitting time so far in goal as the Titans seek to fill the hole left by the graduation of Thomas Mazza, who was the defensive player of the year in the conference last season.

Sophomore Michael Angell, who didn’t try out for the team last season because of an injury, and freshman Logan Barker, are both getting reps.

“Neither of them has played high school soccer until this year,” Williams said. “There is a lot of learning on the job for them now. We’ll keep a close eye on them and continue to watch how they both progress.”

Williams knows that the Titans will run into some quality competition once conference play begins.

“Reynolds and East Forsyth will be really good again, so you always know you need to watch out for them,” he said. “Reagan lost a lot of seniors, but you know they will have a quality team. Our league is always one where you can beat anyone on any given night, but also lose to anyone.”

One game Williams is especially excited about will take place on Friday, Sept. 27 against Mount Tabor.

With the football team having a bye, Williams hopes to fill Durwood Pack Stadium in a “Lights Out” game against the Spartans, who are coached by Jay Benfield, a former standout goalie at West.

“We are going to be wearing our dark jerseys and have the band, cheerleaders, dance team and drum line out like it’s a regular Friday night home football game,” Williams said. “That will be a great scene to pack the soccer stadium with a lot of people. One of our former coaches, Duncan Memory, will be there in a dunking booth and we will be ‘Dunkin’ Duncan’. It should be a lot of fun.”