SHEPHERDSVILLE - The Bullitt Central boys’ soccer program has coach Steve Johnson back in the fold this year after a one-year leave of absence, but the squad has very little back in terms of numbers.
It is a familiar problem for the Bullitt Central program. The team did not win a game last season and there haven’t been enough players for a junior-varsity contest in a lot of years. That pretty much means that Johnson is starting over again each summer.
As of last Thursday, the coach said that the roster included between 15 and 17 players, but that not all of them had been able to show up for the same practice. Johnson was hoping that a few more players might trickle into the program now that school has started.
Even with all of that news, the biggest bit of bad news is that when the team opens the season on Wednesday at Bethlehem is the fact that the players have not taken a single shot this summer at a regular sized goal. The construction of the new Roby Elementary took away the school’s soccer field last year and so home games were played on the football field. This year, the football field is getting a new Bermuda surface, but that has been slow to take hold so the team has been limited to practicing in the outfield area of the softball field behind the Bullitt County Board of Education.
The Cougars do not have a home match scheduled until Sept. 23.
Perhaps the most important addition for the Cougars this season is the hiring of former Bullitt East standout Brandy Beichler as the team’s assistant coach. After playing for the Lady Chargers, Beichler played college soccer at Bellarmine University. Brandy Beichler’s mother, Debbie Beichler, was the long time coach of the Lady Chargers before stepping down last summer when she became the athletic director at Atherton.
“Brandy brings a lot of experience with new ideas on drills and things she has picked up in college,” Johnson said as the team started a practice session last week. “We can certainly utilize those things.
“Our biggest problem right now is that we have not taken a shot at a goal,” the coach added. “Our first shot at a goal will be in our first game. That’s a hindrance to our teams (the same conditions exist for the girls’ program).”
Of the 12 matches that Bullitt Central has scheduled now, only four are at home.
“The majority of our games will be away,” Johnson noted. “Between scheduling for freshmen, JV and varsity football and girls’ soccer there are not a lot of dates.”
Still, through it all, Johnson is happy to be back coaching. He took a leave of absence last fall to take care of some medical problems. He did watch a handful of games last fall.
“I’m glad to be back,” the eternally optimistic coach said. “I plan to be here for the next few years.”
This will be his seventh season coaching the Cougars.
No matter how optimistic Johnson’s outlook might be, he is also realistic. Very few of his players play soccer outside of the three months to the high school season.
“We want to pick up a few wins,” Johnson said. “We have a schedule where we can be competitive in half of the games. If we can win five or six then it will be a good transition season.
“We have a lot of new faces, but they are seniors,” the coach added. “We want to do a lot with the younger players and work on building a program.”
Johnson thinks that about half the team will be seniors this year.
The coach was a long way from being ready to name many starters last week even with the first game less than a week away.
“Everything is so fluid right now,” Johnson said. “With our numbers, everybody has to play everywhere. It will be a few weeks into the season before we have a true line-up.”
The team does have an experienced goal in senior Robbie Purvis. Still, Johnson wants to get some younger players involved in that spot for the future. That will also free up Purvis to move out onto the field.
Johnson has also been impressed with sophomore Wade Curtsinger and Majid Alsherheen as well as senior Morgan Elliott. Fourth-year senior Cody Clark has been showing good leadership and junior Josh Hawkins has skill.
“Like a lot of years here we’ll start out on defense and then try to develop an offense,” Johnson said. “We have some athletic kids, but they are lacking soccer experience.”
After playing Bethlehem on Wednesday, Bullitt Central will take part in the Bullitt Cup event at North Bullitt. The Cougars will take on North Bullitt at 9 a.m. on Saturday and will then turn around and play Bullitt East at 11 a.m.