Seniors of the Southview High School soccer team from left: front row - Dan Blackmar and Eric Breeden; 2nd row - Mitch LeStrange, Brendan Mulvaney, Samer Sarsour, Jared Yoshino, Matt Turley, Ian Segall, Chad Justus and Brandon Schwartz; back row - Jared Lyle, Ben Petro, Cody Shulak, Brad Brown, Omar Gad, Andre Brown, Jeff Letcher, and Marco Balonos.
For the Southview boys soccer team the sense of urgency that a senior athlete faces is magnified by 19.
Dan Blackmar kicks to the net during soccer practice earlier this month at Southview High School in Sylvania.
The Cougars have the largest senior class in the program's history, and the group hopes to seize upon its last chance to leave a legacy.
Southview, which won a Northern Lakes League title last season, is 8-0-2 overall and is 4-0-0 in league play. The Cougars have earned a No. 7 ranking in the Division I state poll. All but four players are seniors.
"It's nice having all these seniors," coach Chad Cody said. "I let them have input because I trust them. They've built that up.
"As seniors this is their last go around," he said. "They have to envision what they need to do to get there. You don't want to be the team that is sad at the end. You want that gold medal on your chest."
Senior forward Dan Blackmar, one of the area's most dynamic scorers, leads the team with 39 points. He has a team-high 17 goals and five assists.
"We definitely want to make this a special season here because it's our last one," Blackmar said. "A lot of us won't be going on to play in college so we want to make some good memories. We've been playing together since first grade. We're doing well together."
Eric Breeden, who is in his third season as the starting goalkeeper, has made 31 saves. He is giving up just 0.60 goals per game and has five shutouts.
"Since this is our last year, you want to go out on a good note," Breeden said. "Having this many senior teammates is great. It makes us more unified. I think we play well together since we've been together for so long."
Breeden said the familiarity equals chemistry, which helped the Cougars reach the district championship game last season.
"We know how to play with each other. We know each others' strengths and weaknesses," Breeden said.
The Cougars have been strong both offensively and defensively. They are outscoring opponents 38-6, and 10 of the 12 top scorers are seniors.
Chris Ellis, who also serves as the kicker for the football team, is second on the team in goals (4) and points (14).
Jared Lyle has dished out a team-high 10 assists. Kenan Newbold has three goals, while Jared Yoshino has two goals and two assists. Matt Turley has scored five goals to go along with three assists.
Marco Bonasas and Andre Brown each have two goals, while Ismeal Gad has a goal and two assists. Brad Brown and Mitch Lestrange each have three points.
Cody, who played at Southview and graduated in 2000, said he has never seen a team that has had more seniors going back to his freshman year in 1997.
"The biggest advantage is that I don't have to use practice time to break down our formation or individual responsibilities," he said. "We did that two years ago when they were sophomores. And then last year they took a major step. This year they know their responsibilities so we can concentrate on specialized things."
He said the players know his systems inside and out.
"I don't have to coach them on the field. I leave it upon them to self-motivate," Cody said.
As juniors, they helped the Cougars climb back to prominence with the program's first NLL championship since 2003. Before that the Cougars had not won a title since 1993.
The two ties this season came at Lakewood St. Edward and to Division III powerhouse Ottawa Hills. Both were 1-1 scores.
Cody said Blackmar, who is 5-foot-6, is on pace to break the school's single season and career scoring records.
"We have the best goal scorer in the area," Cody said. "It's tough for teams to stop him because he's so fast. That opens up everyone else for a one on one or opens some gaps."
Teams always focus on Blackmar with double and even triple teams.
"He still gets it done," Cody said. "He has instinct as a goal scorer. He scores from any angle. He's not a big kid but a lot of goals scorers aren't. He's a little water bug and you don't know where he is coming from."
Blackmar, who earned All-NLL and all-district first-team honors last season, is weighing offers from Walsh University in Canton and from the University of Findlay. Blackmar said he likes the challenge of being the target.
"I'm used to it," he said. "I rely on my teammates to help me out. You can't just guard me and expect to win. It's the whole team they have to watch."
Goalie Eric Breeden stops a ball during soccer practice at Southview High School.
Breeden also earned All-NLL first team as a junior.
"He has grown so much from his freshman year," Cody said. "He has great size and has a great leg. He vocalizes, which is key for a goalkeeper to command your field. It helps your team defensively and attack-wise."
Breeden said he has the mind set of posting a shutout every game.
"I want to do my best to help this team win," he said. "All I ever dream of is going as far as possible in the tournament. Winning back-to-back NLL titles would be great for the program. It shows what Southview is about."
Most of the seniors played for Pacesetter Soccer Club on youth teams.
"We know where each of us is going to be in situations and where people like the ball," Breeden said. "We all work together. We have a lot of height and speed on the outside. And lot of finishers. I feel the sky is the limit. We have a very good chance to go farther than we did last season."
Southview, which went undefeated in the NLL last season, has three league games remaining against some of the strongest teams: Northview (Monday), Perrysburg (Oct. 2), and at Anthony Wayne (Oct. 9). The Wildcats are just outside of the top 10 in the state poll.
"Our first goal after the NLL is getting to the district," Blackmar said. "All of us want it more than a lot of people know because Southview soccer hasn't been looked as top three in the area. But we've made improvements in the last four years and we want to go as far as we can go."
Contact Mark Monroe at: firstname.lastname@example.org, 419-724-6354 or on Twitter @MonroeBlade.
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