By Jason Chlapek
Killeen Daily Herald
The 2009 soccer season is just in its fourth week, but boys teams in District 12-5A will begin league play tonight.
Harker Heights (8-1-2) hosts Belton at 6:30 p.m., while Copperas Cove (1-5-2) visits Bryan, Ellison (3-3-3) travels to College Station for a meeting with A&M Consolidated, and Shoemaker (1-7-2) goes to Temple for a showdown with the defending district champion Wildcats. Those three matches are slated to begin at 7 p.m.
Heights has had the most success of all area teams so far this season with its only loss coming at the hands of Class 4A power Hewitt Midway on Jan. 19. The Knights won the Waco Heart of Texas Classic and the T.J. Zimmer Memorial Tournament, and also won both of its matches in the Shoemaker mini-tournament last week.
Heights' early success has been the result of efficient scoring and tough defense. The Knights have yet to surrender more than three goals in a single match, and have given up three goals just twice.
Alex Perez, Will Morales, Charlie North, B.J. Hammonds and Richard Johnson have been offensive standouts for Heights, while David Tarsa has been a defensive stalwart for the Knights. Perez scored the match-winning goal on a penalty kick in Heights' 2-1 victory over Round Rock Stony Point in the championship match of the Zimmer Memorial Tournament.
Belton, Heights, Temple and Consolidated all qualified for the playoffs in 2008.
Cove hasn't experienced the success that Heights has, as the Bulldawgs have taken their lumps against the likes of Mount Pleasant and Palestine. Cove coach John Jackson hopes the tough nondistrict slate will strengthen his team for the 12-5A gauntlet.
"Every team in this district has made the playoffs recently," Jackson said. "So no match is easy. Every game is a playoff game."
Cove has been solid on defense in the first eight matches with Tyler Ruiz and District 8-4A MVP Michael Roell leading the defensive front. But the offense has struggled for the Bulldawgs as goals have been hard to come by.
Jaime Tamez, who is making his way back from injury, is the offensive mainstay for Cove. He scored 14 goals in seven matches in 2008.
Ellison has had a bout with win, lose or draw this season with its 3-3-3 record, but the Eagles are hoping to score an upset over Consolidated – a playoff team in 2008.
Ellison did have its share of success early as the Eagles advanced to the championship match of the Marble Falls Winter Classic. They also claimed fifth place in the Zimmer Memorial, which included a 2-2 tie against Heights in tournament pool play.
A.J. Tello, Jalil Martin, Jairo Arango, John Brittain and Silvester Harrison have been standouts for Ellison, as has goalkeeper Hudson Diederich.
Shoemaker has made improvements defensively as the season has progressed, according to Grey Wolves coach Greg Jordan. Evidence of this showed in the Shoemaker mini-tournament as the Grey Wolves gave up just two goals in a 2-0 loss to 4A power Abilene Wylie and battled Lampasas to a scoreless tie.
"We've improved, especially on defense," Jordan said. "The guys are developing well as a team, and we've improved from the (preseason) scrimmages. We just need to find some offense."
Kyle Miller has led the defense for Shoemaker, while Roberto Garcia has been an offensive standout. The Grey Wolves' lone victory this season was against San Marcos.