With fifth district championship and North Half win, boys soccer heads back to state

Morgan Ewing, Staff Writer

Fresh from their record-breaking fifth district championship and a North Half win, the boys soccer team is on their way to state for a second year in a row.

“It’s a big honor to win North Half and advance to the state championship game,” head coach David Hoggatt said. “My boys have worked long and hard to have an opportunity at defending their state title from a year ago. Our goal from day one this summer was to return to another state championship and now we have that chance.”

After defeating Long Beach last year 2-1 for Center Hill’s first state soccer title in school history, the Mustangs will face the Bearcats again Feb. 6. The Class 5A state title match will be at 6 p.m. at Madison Central High School. 

“Long Beach has reached the state championship game for the fourth year in a row,” Hoggatt said. “(They) will be a tough and experienced opponent, but we are playing our best soccer right now and when we play at our best I would put us up against anybody in the state.”

Hoggatt took over the program after former coaches Andrew Yeoman and Blake Lashlee left, and he credits them and the players with the team’s success.

“I’ve taken over a phenomenal program built by the previous coaching staff that has been here,” said Hoggatt, who inherited a large group of returners. “These guys can really play ball and it’s been phenomenal being able to coach them and being along for the ride.”

Senior co-captain Brayden Bowden, who plays left wing and left back, said winning five district championships in a row and getting another chance to go to state mean everything.

“There is always some pressure with keeping the streak going, but the team and I work hard enough to keep it going,” he said.

The stats show that their hard work paid off, in both district and non-conference games. The Mustangs’ overall record this season is 12-4.

“We outscored our district opponents 23-2 goals over the course of those games,” Hoggatt said. “We’ve played a pretty heavy schedule and our four losses have all come from 6A opponents that have historically great soccer programs. We’ve challenged ourselves well in our non-conference schedule, but our toughest district opponent would have to be Saltillo. We had really good games against Saltillo. We’ve been one for one here, and we beat them 2-0 at their place.”

Despite their success, Hoggatt said the season has not been without issues. He’s also optimistic about the title match.

“It’s always a difficult challenge, no matter who you’re facing to defend the title, especially in a year with COVID and having to worry about that,” he said. “But, I mean, we have a great shot at defending our title with the players we have and the team that we have. It should be a nice, fun ride.”

The team is ready for Long Beach, said Landon Steakley, a freshman starter who plays left back.

“They’re gonna come at us with their best,” he said, “so we’ve got to give it our all.”