Roam the halls of Southeast High before classes start and it's a sure thing that the clique comprised of boys soccer team members can be found hanging out somewhere. It's been like that since they were freshmen. It shouldn't come as too much of surprise.
Each guy in a group of about eight have common interests — soccer and winning are two.
Being buddies off of the field doesn't directly translate to winning, but it helps with team chemistry and relationships — two reasons why Southeast has a realistic goal of repeating as City League champion.
"We know each other well," goalie Merrick Rhodes said. "We get in fights just like any normal family, but we get over it and we help each other move on, and we try to make ourselves better through constructive criticism — trying to get better as a whole team instead of individually."
That pack mentality often extends to new players, and there is no discrimination between bench players and starters, especially this year when the line between starter and reserve is thin.
"If you get that guy to come in for even just five minutes and give you that rest that you need and they make an impact at the same time, it's going to benefit your team," said All-Metro and coaches all-state forward Konner Knoll." I think we've got like five or six guys that can make an impact in the game."
It would be tempting for Southeast players to get overconfident after going 15-4 last year. But that's not happening. Merrick said winning City League will be just as tough as it was last year, and the Buffs are also coming off a regional final loss to East. Southeast opens against Class 6A champion Washburn Rural at 4:30 p.m. today at Southeast.
"Hopefully we'll be good," coach Tom Rhodes said. "We can't always count on what we did last year. We've got to come out to play. If we don't come out to play then we don't win."
"We think we're going to be competitive in the league, but we're not getting the rankings in the state," Knoll said." I don't think we're cocky, but we have some confidence coming into the season."