FRONT ROYAL — Warren County has a young boys soccer squad this season, but still plenty of reasons for optimism.

Warren County coach Thomas Hodge said his team has a good mix of returners and newcomers.

“We have quite a few people coming back,” Hodge said. “So we have a lot of that foundation that we tried to set in place last year going into the program this year. Half the team is probably returning, and the other half is coming up from (junior varsity) that don’t have as much technical experience. We’re trying to acclimate them into the process that we’re getting into.”

The Wildcats have two seniors — Holden Truax and Keegan Brade. Hodge said that both seniors have already shown some strong leadership skills.

“They’ve already kind of stepped into that role, Keegan (Brade) especially because he knows, he’s had experience,” Hodge said. “He’s been on varsity for three years now, and he’s seen qualities that he wants in a leader. He’s kind of stepped into that role. It’s been wonderful.”

Brade returns as the team’s goalkeeper. Last year he was second in the area with 101 saves.

“As a goalie, he’s just really aggressive,” Hodge said of Brade. “And he has really good vision on the field. We’ve transitioned him from that traditional goalie that just kind of punts or boots the ball. And now he’s learning to be that more possessive style and even acting as a last defender (for the defense).”

Hodge said one of Warren County’s top defenders junior Donovan O’Reilly is battling an injury, but they expect to have him back soon.

O’Reilly was a second-team Class 3 All-Northwestern District selection last season.

Hodge said he has a good mix of returners on defense and younger guys. He said he’s counting on the experienced players to help the newer players out to help make the defense stronger.

Warren County lost two of its top scorers from last year — Jorge Figueroa and Stuart Ashley — to graduation. The pair combined for 12 goals and eight assists last season.

Junior Joey Kilgallen is the top returning scorer, after having five goals and one assist last year.

Hodge said he’s looking for Kilgallen as well as junior Zachary Bourgoin and sophomore Kane Schenher to lead the offense this season.

Hodge said that it will be a learning experience for Bourgoin and Schenher in their first year on varsity.

“They’re used to a different style because they both have a lot of speed,” Hodge said. “So they’re trying to learn the other aspect of the striker that we want. Somebody that can hold the ball, waiting until you get some help, so you don’t have to turn around so easily. They’re looking at that movement, getting lots of extra practice in. So they can get used to that varsity defense this year.”

Warren County opens its season Tuesday at Millbrook.

Hodge said he thinks the district will be more balanced this season and that the Wildcats should be competitive with the other teams.

He said the biggest thing for his team is to learn how to finish on offense and score more goals.

“Right now it’s just a matter of finishing,” Hodge said. “That’s our key thing, that we’re focusing on at the moment. Especially bringing up the younger forwards who are used to just running, running, running. Trying to get them to actually place the balls, instead of just booting it as hard as they can.”

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