The 2019 Hillsboro High School boys soccer season kicks off in earnest this afternoon as the orange and black travel to Girard for a non-conference match-up against the North Mac Panthers. Since adding the Panthers to the schedule two years ago, the Toppers have gone 0-2 in those contests, a trend that Hillsboro Coach Jason Burke hopes end today.
"The first time we played North Mac, we made ESPN SportsCenter and not the way we would’ve wanted," Burke said referencing a video showing the Panthers making a free kick from past midfield that found its way over the head of then-keeper Dyllan Lewey and into the back of the net. The video made its way onto Twitter and then to Sportscenter as one of its “Top 10 Plays”, a feat that was hard for the Toppers to live down.
"We joke about it now,” Burke said. “But at the time it bothered us a pretty good bit."
This year Hillsboro was able to dodge a bullet in terms of graduation as the squad only lost three players, but those three players, Isaiah and Eli Atkins and Justin Kershaw were all three captains and starters who brought not only a wealth of talent to the lineup, but also a wealth of experience.
"It seems like graduation ebbs and flows,” said Burke. “Some years it kills a team in terms of basically forcing the team to hit reset or go into rebuild mode. Fortunately since I’ve been here we’ve never really been forced to do a total rebuild but more of a retool. Eli, Kershaw, and Isaiah will be tough to replace but we’re fortunate to have had a handful of guys waiting in the wings to take over and we’re in a good place. Now next year, we graduate a ton of our group so we’ll see, but this year is nice."
The Toppers boast a lineup chocked with seniors and sophomores, all of whom have played together since they were tiny, and they are hopeful this experienced group will carry them this season. Throw in a much improved group of junior returners and three freshmen who will help and contribute immediately and the Toppers are hopeful for good things to come.
"Everyone who returned has improved, and some vastly," Burke said. "We are cautiously optimistic in what we have and we are looking forward to playing some teams instead of just scrimmaging against each other. We’re ready to get started."
After today’s tilt, the Toppers return home for a contest against the Taylorville Tornadoes, a team returning to their schedule after a layoff, on Wednesday, before traveling to Carlinville on Saturday to open play in the annual Carlinville Kickoff Classic.
Follow the Toppers all season long in The Journal-News.
2019 Hillsboro High School Boys Soccer Team
# Player Position YR
1 JakeHolcomb Defender 12
2 TylerWatson Defender 12
3 WillChristian Midfielder 9
4 JoshBauman Midfielder 12
5 EthanLentz Forward 10
6 IanRoach Midfielder 12
8 FrankiePassariello Midfielder 11
10 JoeMattson Midfielder 12
11 KennonBeecher Defender 10
12 WesStockstill Defender 12
13 CharlesBabcock Midfielder 12
14 JoshRay Defender 9
15 AdisonPollard Midfielder 9
16 HunterBeecher Midfielder 12
17 DaltonGreenwood Midfielder 12
18 KeeganMurray Midfielder 10
19 AydenBrewer Midfielder 10
20 EthanBlankenship Midfielder 12
21 DevinSpeiser Defender 10
22 JackCombs Defender 12
23 PeteFleck Defender 10
25 GavinMatoush Forward 10
0 MattPage Keeper 10
0 ShawRiggs Keeper 11