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File / The Outlook Benjamin Russell's Lucan Yates (19) came on strong in the latter half of last season, and he's expected to be a top offensive producer for the Wildcats this year.

Any time a team graduates a player who could virtually always be relied upon for a quick goal, it’s going to have to rethink how it’s doing things. Benjamin Russell will be looking to replace Luke Harvey this season, but the Wildcats aren’t going to be doing it with just one player.

“Last year, we ran more of a run-and-gun type of soccer,” BRHS boys soccer coach Austin Teel said. “We were sending up a lot of through balls and looking for quick scoring chances. But this year, we’re trying to slow things down and possess the ball. We want to make a lot of quick passes and give and gos. Instead of attacking with one or two, we’re trying to attack with six. We want to get that midfield up so they can help the forwards and wings as much as possible.”

One player who will definitely be moving up to an attacking position is Brandon Welcher, who started last year in the midfield. Welcher boasts a lot of height and speed.

Teel’s uncertain who will be joining Welcher up front but said it may be more a by-committee strategy, especially early on. The Wildcats kick off the season today at the Southern Shootout, where they’ll play three games in two days, and Teel is hoping to get some kinks figured out with the starting lineup.

“We have competition still open for the right and left wings,” Teel said. “I’m hoping to solve that over the weekend once we play a couple games. I’ve got guys in mind and a couple are standing out, but I want to give everyone a fair shot because I’m still not decided completely.”

While there are still some questions up front, one thing that seems to be a big strength for the Wildcats will be in the back. Campbell Woods returns in goal for his third year as a starter. More and more, Woods has developed into a communication role and Teel said that’ll pay dividends this season.

Alex Law is also a third-year starter and he’ll return at center back.

“He’s rock solid back there,” Teel said. “Hopefully with those two guys in the back, I think our defense will at least communicate well and have some experience.”

Andrew Caldwell, who started at midfield last season, will be dropping back to play a defensive role, and Marcus Willis who is new to the game will take over the right back position. Teel said Lane Rigby and Alex Ozment are still competing for the starting job at left back.

As for the midfield, which Teel said should be one of the Wildcats’ biggest strengths, Landon Daniel and Lucan Yates are both returning starters. They’ll be joined by Ethan Martin, who was a good contributor last year and has worked his way into a starting role.

“We’re moving Lucan Yates inside and he’s playing what we call an attacking mid role,” Teel said. “He’s got a shot out of nowhere, so I’m hoping he steps up and fills a role where we’re giving him that freedom to roam around. If he can turn it on and go, I’d like for him to go. Landon Daniel is also very capable of coming up and doing that as well.”

After a very successful season last year in which the Wildcats advanced to the third round of the postseason, Benjamin Russell is looking to go even further this year. But Teel doesn’t want to get too ahead of himself. He’s hoping to finalize that starting lineup, develop some depth and take it from there.

“The ultimate goal for me is to win the section then after that, we’ll take it one step at a time with each game,” Teel said. “Hopefully we get can get over that hump and get into the Final Four again.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.