By Jim Irish
Photos by Mike Valiska
Cedar Creek High School boys soccer has established the gold standard for all sports in BISD for more than a decade.
In eight of its 11 varsity seasons, the Eagles have marched to the playoffs.
Last season, however, was an aberration. Cedar Creek not only failed to advance to the playoffs but also lost to crosstown rival Bastrop for the first time ever.
A major factor in Cedar Creek’s 3-6-2 district season (5-12-6 overall) was a season-ending injury to star center midfielder Alexis Denova. Denova injured his leg in the first district game against Elgin, a 3-1 loss. But even before Denova’s injury, the Eagles hadn’t been stellar with a 2-6-1 non-district record.
"His game knowledge is very high. He's very skilled with the ball. ..."
-- Cedar Creek coach about Alexis Denova
Joel Parker has replaced Tray Horton as head coach. Parker has never coached high school soccer but has plenty of experience at the youth level.
“I like the game,” Parker said. “I like coaching in general. It’s got a lot in common with teaching. It’s outdoors. It has to do some with my own experience with soccer. I like to think about the game; I like the way the game works; I like the guys who play the game. It’s just a good fit for me.”
Parker doesn’t plan to overhaul an outstanding program.
“I think at this level, the guys already know the game,” he said. “For me, it’s not necessarily expecting them to develop certain skills or tell them where they need to be exactly on the field.
“It’s more about building a community and learning to work together and understanding our responsibilities to each other. I prefer to do it with a minimum of yelling. I like it to be more of a conversation we have. If you see me on the sideline, you’ll see more likely talking to a player rather than yelling instructions out into the void.”
The Eagles will count on a healthy Denova, a first-team all-district selection his freshman and sophomore season, to be the conductor.
“His game knowledge is very high,” Parker said about Denova, who plays for the club team FC Westlake. “He’s very skilled with the ball. He understands where he needs to be on the field. He’s a good director. He’s very calm.”
Denova isn’t the only athlete who has ability and understanding of the game. Seven of the 11 projected starters are seniors.
“We have a ton of talent in our program,” Parker said. “(Varsity, JV, freshman teams) are filled with very talented, very experienced guys.”
Tabbed as starters are Tinajero (sr., goalkeeper), Jonathan Bueno (jr., center back), Johnathan Sarmiento (sr., inside, outside back), Nico Chavez (sr., wing), Gustavo Tobias (sr., center midfielder), Manny Carreno (sr., forward), Cesar Gonzalez (jr., center midfielder) Ulysses Benitez (jr., outside back), Brian Rivera (so., wing), and Luis Guerrero (sr., backline).
This is Tinajero’s fourth season on varsity.
Parker said Rivera, a member of Capital City Club Soccer, played part of his freshman season on varsity and is “very talented, very experienced.”
Juan Guerrero (jr., multiple positions), Bryan Mojica (sr., wing), and Eduardo Solis (jr., midfielder) will be the first athletes off the bench, Parker said.
Parker doesn’t prefer one formation but will vary among a 4-3-3, 4-4-2, and 3-5-2.
“I’ve heard from the guys what works and what doesn’t work,” he said. “It depends on player availability and the teams we’re playing.”
The goals for this season are not only to qualify for the playoffs but also to win in the playoffs, Parker said.
“Historically, our school has had some great success with the boys soccer program,” he said. “I think the school and the community want to see that success continue.”
The Eagles will certainly be tested in the newly aligned District 23-5A with the addition of Georgetown and East View.
"Historically, our school has had some great success with the boys soccer program. I think the school and the community want to see that success continue."
“Our district season is going to be very difficult, very challenging, a lot of really good teams,” Parker said. “We know we’ve got to keep working and keep improving in order to experience any success in the district schedule."
Cedar Creek opens the season in the Governor’s Cup in Austin with matches against Northeast Early College on Thursday, Lubbock Monterey on Friday, and Huntsville on Saturday.
Jim Irish is a freelance writer in Bastrop, Texas