DeMasters, Oak Mountain looking to repeat
Published 2:32 pm Monday, February 8, 2016
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
NORTH SHELBY – The expectations for Oak Mountain soccer look a little different than they do just about anywhere else in the state. The Eagles have played for a state title each of the last five years, winning a 6A title in 2011 and a 7A title this past year in 2015. The Eagles have established easily one of the most dominant programs in the state, and have created an environment where competing for titles is not a hope, it’s expected.
“This is the standard the program has set,” Oak Mountain boys soccer head coach Daniel DeMasters said. “That type of success is what has come to be expected.”
The playoff run Oak Mountain went on last season to win the first 7A title was something to witness. The Eagles had to beat Vestavia, Hoover and Bob Jones, the top-three ranked teams in 7A at the time, for even a shot at the state title. Now, a year later, they’re going to try and do it again with a team that looks a little different.
Gone are Trigg Langner, Clay McDonald and Hunter Ratliff off that state title team, leaving the middle of the field open to younger talent. The senior trio has all moved on to play college soccer, and was integral to the success the offense experienced a season ago. However DeMasters is excited to implement a younger, unselfish attacking front.
“I like the youth because we are unselfish,” DeMasters said of his attack. “I think in the beginning our underclassmen will struggle with chemistry, but as time goes on my job is to make them mesh. We have to get used to each other, and that just takes some time.”
Kennedy Davis is the only true returning player for the Eagle attack. The junior has speed and is good technically with the ball at his foot, and will be the leader of the Oak Mountain attack this season. Levi Long will join Davis on the attack as a junior as will sophomore Clay Holstad, younger brother to team captain Hunter Holstad.
In contrast to the youth up front, the entire back line that posted 13 shutouts last season returns. Goalie Ryan Dearman and the four defenders in front of him, Chandler and Christian Thomason, Brandon Kelley and the elder Holstad are all seniors and will anchor the defense yet again.
Holstad was the only junior to be named to the First-Team All-State a season ago, and makes up one third of the Eagles’ captaincy, along with the Thomason twins. With the back line intact and fresh blood up front, the pieces are in place for another title run.
“It’s difficult, I think there’s only four teams that have gone back-to-back,” DeMasters said of his team’s chances at repeating. “I never want to put that pressure on them. I am really excited for this team.”
The Eagles will kick off the season on Feb. 9 with a home game against Vestavia Hills, widely considered to be the biggest threat to Oak Mountain’s quest to repeat as the 7A state champions. Vestavia beat Oak Mountain in the regular season last year 4-0 before Oak Mountain beat the Rebels when it counted in the playoffs 2-1. The two teams have never opened up the season playing each other before, and the opportunity to get a look at both programs this early in the season is a unique situation.
“We’re preseason No. 1 and they’re preseason No. 2, and I’m not sure it’s ever been done where the top two teams play the first game of the season,” DeMasters said. “I think everyone’s excited for that game.”