As with all high school sports in Illinois, there were more questions than answers when it came to beginnings of seasons and if there would even be a season at all.
From high to medium to low risk, most athletes and coaches and fans were in a “wait and see” pattern most of the school year.
Finally, for the Hillsboro High School boys soccer team, the green light came in the form of a start date for practice on March 1 after a handful of weeks of “contact days” and the regular season beginning Tuesday, March 9.
After all the uncertainty, there was one thing Topper coach Jason Burke was very much certain concerning this year’s team - they’d be ready to hit the ground running when the time came.
“We have a group of talented, talented guys who have been waiting for this chance to make this team their own,” Burke said. “We were flush with senior talent last year and the juniors and sophomores knew they’d be asked to take over the reins this year. So far, with them getting together pick up games and unofficial workouts, these guys have shown that even though we graduated a metric ton of talent, we’re ready to fill those shoes and pick up.”
The shoes in question were filled by some of the most talented Topper soccer players in program history including multiple all-conference nods Josh Bauman, Joe Mattson, Dalton Greenwood, Tyler Watson and Ian Roach, who led the Toppers to a stout 16-4-1 record including a South Central Conference title with a perfect 9-0 record.
Throw in players who came into their own Wes Stockstill, Charles Babcock, Jack Combs, and Ethan Blankenship and it would be easy to count against the orange and black that year as a team decimated by loss. Not so says Burke.
“Those guys, as always, will be impossible to replace and were players who were unlike any others in terms of playing totals long as they did. On the flip side, they were incredible role models our younger guys learned from and that in and of itself got this year’s team ready to go. They’re eager to cut their own path and it’s exciting to see.”
The “spring” version of the Toppers boasts the return of first team all-conference goalkeeper Shaw Riggs, first teamer Ethan Lentz and second teamers Devin Speiser and Ayden Brewer.
Senior Frankie Passariello and newcomer Colin Butler are seniors on the club. Juniors besides Lentz, Speiser, and Brewer include Kennon Beecher, Gavin Matoush, and Matt Page.
Sophomores returning are Will Christian and Adison Pollard. Freshmen include Hunter Payne, Nathan Brown, Chase Saathoff, Elias Gutierrez, Logan Murray, Griffen Hughes, Kyle Holcomb and Deklan Riggs.
In addition to the newcomers, the Toppers add assistant coach Matt Lentz, who moves up to the high school level after coaching at the jr. high level for nearly ten years.
All of this only adds to the excitement and expectations for a solid season for the Toppers. Follow the Toppers all season long in The Journal-News.