2014 KHQA BARNSTORM TOUR: QUINCY HIGH SOCCER
Ben Mero: "I think this is definitely , from top to bottom, the most solid team we've ever had. All the way from our Goalie (Tyler) Gerst all the way up to our Forwards. We did lose Evan Curran, that's a big loss up top, but we will be able to replace him."
Matt Longo: "We always tell our kids: we don't worry about what we've lost. We worry about what we've got coming back. And these kids are a different breed of kids than what we had last year."
Three stellar starters lost to graduation. A fourth to a catastrophic knee injury and yet Quincy High Blue Devil Soccer still won't even blink. That is the hallmark of program confidence. It's just that it emanates from different wells of strength this fall. Take for example, this little nugget: in 13 summer league games, this incarnation of QHS gave up just two total goals.
Devin Watson: "Yeah, we have a really solid defense and that gives us comfort at the back, knowing that we can push up whenever we want and create more opportunities on the offensive end."
Tyler Gerst: "When you don't allow goals, it will allow the rest of the defense to be more confident. And everyone has each others back, from the forwards all the way back to the Goalie. Like if the forwards lose him, the midfield has got him. If the midfields lost him, the stoppers got him."
Matt Longo: "I think every coach will tell you: Offense puts fans in the stands and Defense wins championships. And I think our Defense this year, starting with our Keeper to our five Backs that we play and our two Midfielders are very good. And I think our three Forwards along with our two Midfielders, are other five, make a great up front."
With that steel curtain drawn across the backline, the approach to goal creation for the Blue Devils may be the biggest cosmetic change of all for this program.
Matt Longo: "We had a play maker last year, we had some kids make some nice runs off of it. I think what you are going to see (this year) is us develop a little bit more at the Midfield; some nice passes, some through balls, attack from the outside and get some crosses."
Tyler Gerst: "We still have all the confidence we can have up top. We have Hunter (Hoschar)... Riley (Roth)...and whoever we put up top, we can Tiki-Tock around anybody, really"
Devin Watson: "We know the type of game we play and we don't try to play outside ourselves. We always try to play the possession game and work the ball up field and try to create opportunities based off that."
And based off any amount of conversation with the Blue Devils themselves, I don't think it's unfair to say that all of that accumulated talent AND an enriched schedule, is directed at one very specific target: ending the Edwardsville Jinx.
Matt Longo: "We've got a very hard Regional. There is no Gimme in our Regional. And we know that for us to get there, we have got to play the best. And over the years we have played the best and its given us some recognition and I think for these kids its well deserved. Now it??s a matter of they have to go out and prove that they are capable of doing that."
Tyler Gerst: "We just need to not be scared of anything. We need to be able to handle any situation and go in with our heads held high. This year, I think this is going to be our year. Edwardsville is going to go down. "