Teamwork makes the difference for Falcon kickers

"Falcon kickers are on the field, practicing for the season that starts Tuesday.At most high schools, the coaches of a boys soccer team that placed second in the state the previous year then lost most of its starting lineup to graduation might be ready to hang up their whistles and cleats.But in the aftermath of 2000's 15-6, 2A state runner-up dream season, South Whidbey coaches Mark Helpenstell, John Jelinek, and Joel Gerlach might just be on the edge of unlocking the potential of what is still one of the most competitive soccer programs in the state. These are high hopes for a team that lost eight seniors last year, a group that included the team's two most prolific scorers -- Joseph Supang and Topi Manu -- and defensive aces Josh Gianni and Giles Hamilton. Still, said coach Helpenstell this week, the Falcons of 2001 may well put more goals in the net than every before.It helps that he and his staff are working with a group of players that know each other better than they know their own siblings. Most of the team's juniors and seniors have been playing together since they were only twice the height of a regulation soccer ball. Though none of them may turn out to be the sort of power scorer Joseph Supang was last year, Helpenstell said this year's Falcons -- with more than 150 years of playing experience among them -- will show off team play like South Whidbey has never seen.It's going to be a different style of play, he said. Freer.Leading the Falcons on offense will be seniors R.J. Erickson, Kevin Brink, George Supang, and Chris Martin, as well as sophomore Abe Smith-Groening, who spent last season recovering from injuries. Helpenstell said he expects these players to befuddle the competition with outstanding pass play, speed, and their ability to nearly read each others' minds, at least where soccer is concerned.Keeping the ball away from the South Whidbey goal will be an experienced corps of defensemen led by senior Aaron McCabe. Between McCabe's explosive speed and the hard-nosed work ethic driving senior stoppers Sean Edwards and Blake Skouras, coach Helpenstell said it will only be the rare opponent who gets to take a shot on goal. And when that happens, the Falcons will be able to rely on senior goal keeper Michael Johnson, who had one of the lowest goals against averages in the state last year.As a team, the Falcons will vie for the North Cascades Conference title this year. Lynden Christian, which took the title last year based on their conference play, will be South Whidbey's closest rival as the Falcons make a try for the state tournament. Beyond the conference race, coach Helpenstell is choosing to remain largely silent this season. He said he wants to see the Falcons back in the bi-district playoff hunt, but trying to predict anything further would put too much pressure on his team.The Falcons start their conference schedule next Tuesday, March 13 with a home game against Sultan, but the season will not start heating up until they meet with NCC powerhouse Lakewood on March 23. "

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