As a jet fighter pilot, Mike Timbrook knows all about flying under the radar.
Timbrook, coach of the Perrysburg soccer team, believes a lack of state-wide attention to his Yellow Jackets could also be very beneficial.
Timbrook also serves as a Lt. Col. in the Ohio Air National Guard. While certainly not a life-or-death matter, securing a state soccer title remains a lofty goal.
Despite a 12-game winning streak entering tournament time, Perrysburg (13-3-0) still has not cracked the top 10 in the Division I state coaches poll. The Yellow Jackets won the Northern Lakes League title with a 7-0-0 record.
"We want to fly under the radar," Timbrook said. "The boys know their potential. If they don't get that respect, they get mad. We do use the polls as motivation."
Junior Karter Sell, who leads the team with 12 goals and nine assists, said he prefers the underdog role.
"We want to go out and show them that we can beat anyone," Sell said. "We met our first goal [winning the NLL], now we have to meet our second goal."
Junior goalie Jeremy Ashley, who has nine shutouts, agreed: "There's not as much pressure on the underdogs."
Yet from 1998-2004 Perrysburg ruled the NLL, winning seven straight NLL titles. Over an 11-year span (1994-2005), Perrysburg won the league 10 times. The Yellow Jackets have won three of the last six championships.
Timbrook said focus has instantly turned from the NLL to the tournament.
"Season two starts [Thursday in the sectional final]," Timbrook said.
He said his team does not have any "superstars."
"Most teams have only one player that you need to worry about," he said. "Teams have to defend multiple players against us. We're solid in all 11 positions. We have no true weakness."
He said the style of the team is to play a solid all-around game.
"We can rotate players in and out," he said. "Other teams spend time chasing the ball and they get out of shape. That creates opportunities for us to score."
Sell said other teams can't use two players to mark him.
"If they do that, I just get it to another guy that can score," Sell said. "We're really balanced."
Timbrook said the core of the team is nine juniors that have played together for 10 years and became starters on the varsity as sophomores.
"They have a good time. These kids grew up together," Timbrook said. "We hope to end this season on a good note and carry it over to their senior year."
The Yellow Jackets have scored 47 goals given up just 10, including only three over the last 12 games. Fourteen of the 16 players have scored at least one goal.
Senior Anthony Dangelo has scored nine to go along with three assists. Juniors Shawn Banagis and Nate Smith have five goals apiece. Banagis also has three helpers. Senior Shane McGee has dished out six assists and has netted four goals.
Sell, who had a hat trick against Springfield, said chemistry has been built from hours together on and off the pitch.
"We know what each other will do at different times," he said. "Since I was 8, I've waited for this time. We want to go all the way."
Ashley has allowed less than one goal per game and has a .625 goals- against average.
"We know each others strengths. You know what they will do before they even do it. It makes it easier to communicate on the field," Ashley said.
Timbrook said Sell is the team's "setup man."
"Karter is very skilled," Timbrook said. "Our team transitions through him."
Perrysburg advanced in 2001 to the state final, where it lost a heartbreaker in a shootout to Thomas Worthington.
"This team is similar to that 2001 team. It's a quality group," Timbrook said. "They have the ability to achieve the same level of success. They have the motivation and will to do that. They've shown maturity and moments of brilliance."
The team hasn't lost since Sept. 5. The biggest win was a 2-1 victory over defending Division II state champion Ottawa Hills. Sell said beating the Green Bears raised the team's confidence.
"It's an honor to be part of the Perrysburg program," he said.
Ashley said he also has looked forward to making his mark.
"I've wanted to be the varsity goalie at Perrysburg since junior high and finally it's here," he said. "We've wanted to win states since we were little. We'd like to win it both years."
Timbrook came to the program in 1989 as an assistant under Pete Raffa. Timbrook took over the head position after Raffa, who was a fellow aviator, tragically passed away from a heart attack at the age of 44 in 2001.
Timbrook also serves as president of the Perrysburg Soccer Club, a youth organization for ages 8-14.
"We have over 1,000 kids in our rec program," he said. "We have 42 soccer fields in Perrysburg. They learn the basics from an early age."
All 16 of the varsity players also play club soccer year-round and many will play at the next level.
Yet Perrysburg opened the season with an inauspicious 1-3 start. The team lost to state powerhouses Beavercreek, Upper Arlington and to St. Francis de Sales.
The Knights, who were ranked seventh in the final coaches' poll, defeated Perrysburg 2-1 on Sept. 3. The Yellow Jackets, who lost in the sectional final last season, checked in at No. 11 in the poll.
Timbrook and his players hope to have a rematch against the Knights in the playoffs. Both teams would meet in the regional semifinals if they continue winning.
"We'd love to get back at them," Ashley said.
Timbrook said some believe his team is a year away from realizing its true potential.
"In some ways, yes we still have things to work on," he said. "But they have the ability now. They'll get a taste of what the tournament is like. They'll find out what they need to improve on. But they all want to win now."
Timbrook said in a scrimmage against Cleveland St. Ignatius, his "young" team had the ability to play with the No. 1 ranked team.
"It would be great if we could do it both years," Sell said.
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