When graduation left a gaping hole in the Maize boys soccer defense by taking every 2012 starter, coach Jay Holmes knew he’d have to rectify the situation with massive changes.
During a summer game in Salina, with the defensive woes much clearer, Holmes approached Sage Chaffin about moving from midfield to defense.
It was a bold question posed to a senior who had only ever played forward and outside midfield during his career.
“I was a little bit hesitant,” Chaffin said. “I thought, ‘OK, it’s just for one weekend.’ But after playing the back for a while, I really like it now.”
Chaffin’s defensive role is critical for Maize to get deeper into the postseason. The Eagles desperately want to avoid a repeat of 2012’s season, which ended in the first round of the Class 6A playoffs.
“I have a need for leadership back there, and he’s really stepped up and is ready to play that role for us this year,” Holmes said. “ He’s always been defensive oriented in how he plays midfield. He’ll transition well, and he brings a lot of pace back there.”
Chaffin, who is quick and athletic, has taken steps to improve his defensive play, including gaining weight.
“I’ve been working out, trying to put on some weight so I don’t get knocked around on the defense because I’m the back line now,” Chaffin said. “I have to figure out the angles I need to take. I can’t overcommit and he goes right by me, and we get scored on.”
Holmes considers the defensive holes to be opportunities for other players, including Brett Combs, a 6-foot-4 junior, who takes over at goalkeeper.
There’s some freshmen who could move into the lineup, as well as sophomore Ben Garrison and senior Josh Benavidez, who played junior varsity last season and is someone Holmes expects to step in and perform well.
Fewer questions exist offensively.
The midfield is strong with seniors Kevin Combs and Caleb Wilcox, and the rest of the offense returns, except for Angel Diaz, who suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury over the summer.
“(Combs) is just one of the most technical midfielders I’ve seen around in a number of years,” Holmes said. “And Caleb brings a physical presence in the midfield, does all the dirty work, wins 50-50 balls and helps to generate the attack. They complement each other well.”
Wilcox and Combs also do well on counter attacks.
“That’s where we’ll be our strongest. When we take the ball from the other team and they’re not full set to defend, then we have a chance to go forward with our speed and try to exploit their weaknesses and score off it,” Combs said.
The offense should be able to take some pressure off the defense.
“We can win a lot of 50-50 balls, keep possession,” Wilcox said.
At forward, Alan Sanchez and Connor Holmes can both score.
“Sanchez played quite a few games for us as a freshman, and he presents a lot of challenges for teams because he’s quick and tenacious up top. He’s a natural goal scorer. He’s not a very big kid, but he is lightning fast and skillful.
“Connor brings size and strength. He’s just a physical player. Connor will hopefully win more balls out of the air.”
If the season plays out like Jay Holmes expects, watch for a much tougher team come postseason.
“I think we’re going to be the type of team that will continue to improve throughout the season,” Holmes said. “It will be a learning curve for us to some degree in the back. Hopefully in the middle of the season, they’ll be able to jell and develop chemistry and play at a high level.”
AREA BOYS SOCCER PLAYERS TO WATCH
Andover: Tommy Fiszel, jr.; Ryan Brimager, sr.; Brandon Wampler, sr.
Andover Central: Jace Peckham, jr.; Colin Williams, sr.; Wyatt Skibba, so.; Aaron Christian, sr.
Arkansas City: Julian Hernandez, sr.; Jesus Terrazas, sr.; Arturo Valdovinos, sr.
Augusta: Corbin Murry, jr.; Mason Hiser, jr.; Kyler Steinkamp, sr.; Brandon Denoncourt, so.; Michael Albright, jr.
Buhler: Alex Darrow, sr.; Mitchell Byers, sr.; Jordan DeMeyer, jr.; Austin Schmidt, sr.; Evan Schmidt, jr.; Garrett Wilkinson, sr.; Jack Adkins, sr.
Campus: Connor Patterson, so.; Sergio Mireles, so.; Ryan Swiggart, so.; Andrew Marsh, jr.
Circle: Ian Page, sr.; Nathan Chaplin, sr.; Braedon Roper, jr.; Anthony Cutsinger, so.; Mark Walthers, so.
Derby: Edgar Vaquera, sr.; Austin Swinder, sr.; Julio Vielmas, sr.; Matt Chapman, sr.; Chase Sacket, sr.; Alan Flores, jr.
Eisenhower: Alex Pfannensteil, sr.; Jacob Gasho, sr.; Blake Lynch, jr.; Corey Bozarth, jr.; John Bondie, jr.; JT Crist, fr.
Goddard: Jackson Kroger, sr.; Landon Babcock, sr.; Andrew Bowden, jr.; Kaleb Snow, sr.; Zach Koch, jr.; Daniel Weaver, jr.; Jonatan Sevilla, jr.; Cameron Perkins, so.
Hutchinson: Radley Arnold, sr.; Bryce Davis, sr.; Louden Dimitt, sr.; Gauge Harper, sr.; Ross Howard, sr.; Greg Kinney, sr.
Independent: Jonny Richmond, sr.; Daniel Moon, sr.; Jason Karlin, sr.; Thomas Varenhorst, sr.; Matt Fox, so.; Michael Kay, sr.
Maize South: Jake Eskridge, sr.; Alex Green, sr.; Yobani Delgado, sr.; Braden Stuart, sr.; Michael Gorges, sr.; Bailey Benter, jr.
McPherson: Ryan Horton, sr.; Peter Horton, sr.; Dylan Blosser, sr.; Adam Bowers, sr.; Dylan Stos, sr.
Newton: Francisco Fierros, sr.; Frank Valdez, sr.; Levi Lettau, sr.; Jared Rangel, sr.; Carlos Reyes, sr.; Jacob Dobson, sr.
Rose Hill: Czyz Taylor, sr.; Christian Helmke, jr.
Trinity Academy: Josiah Degrado, sr.; Ben Mosley, sr.; Clay Burke, sr.; Emery May, so.; Matt Nykamp, so.
Valley Center: Jordan Gomez-Nix, so.; Nate Eckert, so.; Enrique Robles, jr.; Ethan Hogan, so.; Tanner Swett, fr.
AREA BOYS SOCCER SCHEDULES
Friday — Goddard at Southeast; Emporia at Northwest; Andover Central at Maize South; Rose Hill at Coffeyville.
Monday-Sept. 7 — Titan Classic. Monday — Goddard at Campus; Winfield at Augusta; Newton at Valley Center. Tuesday — Newton at Andover; Berean at Independent. 5 — Maize South at Campus; Newton at Buhler; Eisenhower at Salina South; Arkansas City at Rose Hill. 9 — Rose Hill at Buhler. 10 — South at Dodge City; North at Garden City; Southeast at Berean; Circle at West; Valley Center at Maize; Buhler at Andover. 10-14 — Goddard tourney; Winfield tourney. 12 — West at North; Olathe Northwest at East; Andover at Hutchinson; Derby at Salina Central. 14 — Olathe Northwest vs. Kapaun (at Stryker); East at Trinity Academy. 16 — Andover Central at Maize. 17 — Northwest at Derby; Goddard at Valley Center; Arkansas City at Andover; North at South; Southeast vs. Kapaun (at Stryker); West at Heights; East at Carroll; Hutchinson at Campus; Maize at Salina South; Salina Central at Newton; Maize South at Eisenhower; Augusta at Mulvane; Trinity at Rose Hill; Buhler at Circle. 19 — Carroll at West; Goddard at Newton; Andover at Derby; East at Southeast; Kapaun at Northwest; Heights at South; Campus at Valley Center; Hutchinson at Andover Central; Eisenhower at Salina Central; Augusta at Winfield; Rose Hill at Maize South; Mulvane at Circle; Independence at Independent. 23 — Topeka Hayden vs. Kapaun (at Stryker); Emporia at Carroll; South at West; North at East; Trinity Academy at Southeast; Kapaun at Heights; Valley Center at Derby; Independent at Mulvane. 24 — Derby at Campus; Maize at Salina Central; Newton at Eisenhower; Andover Central at Andover; Maize South at Goddard; Mulvane at Winfield; Circle at Rose Hill; McPherson at Augusta; Independent at Coffeyville. 26 — Carroll at North; West at Northwest; Southeast at South; Arkansas City at Augusta; East vs. Kapaun at Stryker; Maize at Andover; Andover Central at Newton; Derby at Maize South; Winfield at Eisenhower; Goddard at Salina South; Valley Center at Rose Hill; Independent at Circle. 28 — Liberal at North. 30 — Rose Hill at Eisenhower; Maize South at Winfield; Mulvane at Independent.
1 — Heights at North; Augusta at Buhler; Arkansas City at Goddard; Campus at Salina Central; Southeast at West; Northwest at East; South at Manhattan; Kapaun at Carroll; Hutchinson at Maize; Derby at Newton; Andover at Maize South; Eisenhower at Andover Central; Circle at Mulvane; McPherson at Rose Hill. 3 — North at Southeast; Augusta at Berean; Newton at Campus; Carroll at Heights; South at Northwest; Maize at Derby; West vs. Kapaun (at Stryker); Andover at Eisenhower; Goddard at Andover Central; Maize South at Valley Center; Sunrise at Circle; Sunrise Christian at Independent. 5 — Berean at Andover. 7 — Southeast at Independent. 8 — Augusta at Circle; Northwest at North; West at Coffeyville; South at Trinity Academy; Heights at Rose Hill; Andover at Campus; Maize at Newton; Salina South at Derby; Valley Center at Andover Central; Eisenhower at Goddard; Arkansas City at Maize South; Buhler at Mulvane. 10 — East at West; Circle at Buhler; Campus at Salina South; Southeast at Heights; Kapaun at South; Goddard at Maize; Newton at Hutchinson; Valley Center at Andover; Salina Central at Derby; Eisenhower at Arkansas City; Salina Central at Maize South; Mulvane at Augusta. 12 — Carroll at Hays; Topeka West at Heights; Maize South at Hutchinson; Independence at Rose Hill. 14-19 — North tourney. 14 — Arkansas City at South; Mulvane at McPherson; Augusta at Independent. 15 — Manhattan at Northwest; Winfield at Circle; Salina South at Newton; Carroll at Andover Central; Southeast at Maize; Ark City at Campus; Sunrise Christian at Independent; Rose Hill at Augusta; Derby at Goddard; Andover at Salina Central. 17 — Heights at Great Bend; South at Derby; Rose Hill at Winfield; Andover Central vs. Kapaun (at Stryker); Maize at Northwest; Campus at Mulvane; Augusta at Andover; Hutchinson at Eisenhower. 19 — Dodge City at Heights. 21 — Carroll at Trinity Academy; Winfield at Mulvane. 22 — Circle at McPherson; Campus at Maize; Carroll at Southeast; Mulvane at Rose Hill; South at East; Kapaun at Emporia; Heights at Northwest; Goddard at Andover; Derby at Hutchinson; Andover Central at Arkansas City; Valley Center at Eisenhower; Independent at Berean Academy. 24 — Rose Hill at Newton; Berean at West; South at Carroll; North vs. Kapaun (at Stryker); Campus at Andover Central; Eisenhower at Maize; Andover at Salina South; Winfield at Goddard; Maize South at Buhler; Circle at Augusta; Independent at Great Bend.