Northwood Academy boys soccer coach David Harrison readily admits that his team was not the favorite to win the Class AA SCISA state championship the last two seasons.
It was all about getting hot at the right time, which his team has done on its way to back-to-back state titles.
And Harrison, whose team is off to a 9-1 start after winning nine straight games since a season-opening loss to Cathedral Academy, said his team should not be considered the favorite in 2014.
"As we have learned the last two years, it's all about getting hot at the right time," Harrison said.
"We were not the best team in the state in either year that we won it going into the playoffs, but we got hot at the right time and rode the momentum to the championship. You don't have to be the best team all season. You have to be the best team for those three or four playoff games."
And, you will never hear Harrison or members of his team talking about a three-peat. The coach says first things first.
"We haven't even talked about the playoffs really because it's too far off for us," said Harrison. "We're not at the level we need to be right now. We're having a good season and we have a good team but I don't think we have come close to peaking yet. We're not talking playoffs or three-peat. We're talking about getting better every day. Once we get through the regular season, we'll start to focus on the playoffs."
Harrison went into this season having to replace five seniors, but the coach feels the program has developed into one that does not feel graduation pains as much as it used to.
"We have better balance in the classes now and that makes it easier to deal with each year," the coach said. "We lost five seniors last year. I think we have six or so seniors this year and about that many juniors. We play a lot of guys so it's an easier transition from year to year."
Heading into a non-region game with Porter-Gaud on April 3, Northwood had allowed four goals - an own goal in the 1-0 season-opening loss, two goals on penalty kicks, and one normal goal. Defense, says Harrison, is the strength of this year's team.
"We are very experienced and very talented in the back end and those guys have carried us so far," said the coach.
Back in goal is sophomore keeper Zach Ellison. Seniors Andrew Singer, Connor Reed and Brett Heatley are the starting backs.
Two seniors return as starters in the midfield in Garrett Jones and Brad Rumble, the team's leading goal scorer with eight goals this season. Senior Micah Loudin, a first-year soccer player but one of the school's better athletes, has joined the starting lineup and made an impact in the middle.
Juniors Dennis Gavrilov, Cole Beaver and Dalton Kolodziej work the middle of the field, along with freshman Tyler Harrison.
Offensively, Harrison says this year's team is the least explosive of the last three.
"We have a true team offense," he said. "We don't have a go-to guy like we've had in the past. We have more balance and more threats, and I think it's tougher for teams to just focus on taking away one guy. We're not what I would call a real high-scoring offense, but we have several who can put the ball in the back of the net."
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