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February 18, 2020

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Bulldog boys soccer club looks to re-tool on the run

Caleb Garmon, Jacob Okuly and Noah Garmon will assist Jason Okuly in coaching the Bulldogs

Story and photos by Cort Reynolds
Team photo at bottom of story -

The Ada boys soccer team has a tough act to follow in 2019, but the Bulldogs return several talented players to try and meet the challenge.

The Bulldogs lost seven starters from their sectional champion team to graduation, led by high-scoring Northwest Conference Player of the Year Chris Reyes.

Fellow all-league first teamer Noah Garmon and second team pick Jacob Okuly, as well as Jon Allen, also graduated and will be missed.

Eight lettermen, 4 starters return
Yet eight lettermen and four starters return from the squad that finished 11-7-1 overall and second in the six-team Northwest Conference. Ada ended up behind only champion Bluffton in the NWC race with a fine 4-1-0 record.

Ada defeated Oak Harbor and Willard in sectional play to advance to the district semifinals before losing to Van Buren, perennial power from the North Central Ohio Soccer Association. The Bulldogs were 3-3-1 in rugged 2018 NCOSA play.

Seniors Skylar Williams and Isaac Spar return after each earned second team All-NWC honors last year. Speedy junior scorer Jacob Poling also returns as an honorable mention all-league pick.

Sixth-year Ada head coach Jason Okuly knows the team will be hard-pressed to be as successful record-wise as they have been the last two seasons, when the Bulldogs went a combined 22-13-1.

But they still have enough talent back with newcomers to be very competitive and perhaps surprise some teams. He feels the team can at least be .500 this season.

"We are young," Okuly noted. "We just want to stay positive and learn together. It may take a while for the new guys to develop chemistry and rapport with the returnees.

"Losing Reyes is obviously a lot to replace," admitted Okuly. "He was great at distributing assists and scoring. But I have confidence in Skylar, he can distribute the ball well too."

Eleven of the 19 players on the roster are freshmen or sophomores, and two of the six seniors last played three seasons ago as frosh.

Four senior lettermen will serve as co-captains: Williams, Spar, Nicholas Kamatali and Wyatt Rettig.

"We have moved Skylar from defensive midfield to center mid this year," said Okuly. "He is calm, cool and makes good decisions. He has great ballhandling skills and will be our offensive general out there."

The athletic Spar will be a defensive midfielder this fall. "Isaac has speed and endurance, and one heck of a foot," said Okuly. "He is our most vocal leader, and we expect him to get our offense and defense in position."

Kamatali is another defensive midfielder back. "The kid is just everywhere on the field, he has great stamina and a knack for being in the right place at the right time," said the coach. "He has been striking the ball well in pre-season, and also has a heck of a foot."

Rettig is the last senior back and the most experienced back line defender returning. "We lost three starters from our back line so we will rely on Wyatt to be a defensive leader. The kid is all heart," Okuly commented.

Versatile junior Poling moves from a 12th man utility role into a full-time starting role as a MF/forward this fall. "He is left-footed, very quick and fast," said Okuly. "He knows how to find the creases. JP has good ball distribution skills, and is a good finisher. It will be nice to have him up front on offense."

Seniors Kyler Stoll and Michael Crouse return to the program after not playing soccer for the varsity squad since they were in ninth grade. Stoll will join Rettig on defense where he can utilize his speed on the back line. "Kyler has great speed and muscle," noted the coach.

Crouse had run cross country in recent years, and will put his speed and endurance to good use at midfield. "He has phenomenal speed," said Okuly. "We are working on his foot skills and crosses. Both he and Kyler are good additions, and I am glad to have them back."

Sophomores Isaac Williams (MF) and Tyler Jameson (D) are lettermen back expected to start. "I am looking for Isaac to step up quite a bit a midfield this season along with Tyler on defense," said Okuly.

Junior Ian Dellifield is also new to the team after running cross country. He will start at MF/F. "He is a smart player with great foot skills and ball distribution ability," said Okuly. "I see Mike and Ian as good wingers." Dellifield will also serve as the backup goalkeeper.

Freshman Grant Preston inherits the all-important starting keeper position. "He does well and is not afraid to stick his nose into traffic," said the coach of his new goalie. "Grant has made a lot of progress already and has a lot of potential. I have a lot of confidence in him. He has a good foot."

Sophomore MF letterman Jacob Thaxton is expected to take over the 12th man role vacated by Poling. "He will be our utility player," said Okuly. "He is knowledgable and versatile - he can play midfield, forward and defender."

Rounding out the 19-player roster are sophomore Andrew Rush (MF), and six freshmen - Brendan Jameson (D), Daniel MscDonald (D), Carter Conley (MF/F), Noah Huff (D), Dillon Hartman (D) and Caden Arn (D).

The veteran mentor is more concerned about the team's defense at this point than he is about scoring. "We lost three four-year starters on the defensive backline and a keeper (to graduation), so the offense is probably ahead of our defense in pre-season," he noted.

The NWC race
In the NWC race, Okuly says four-time defending champion Bluffton "is the favorite as always. Smucker has a good program." The Pirates are 20-0-0 all-time in NWC play since soccer became a league sport in 2015.

"I think Ada can finish in the top three in the NWC," the coach predicted.

In the always-tough North Central Ohio Soccer Association league rase, Okuly thinks Van Buren and Riverdale will be the top two teams. He hopes the Bulldogs can finish "mid-pack" in NCOSA play.

Recent former Ada standouts Caleb Garmon, Jacob Okuly and Noah Garmon will assist Okuly in coaching the 2019 Bulldogs.

Ada kicks off its season under the lights at Indian Lake Friday, August 16. The home and NWC opener is set for Aug. 24 against Spencerville.

Ada boys soccer at a glance
2018 record: 11-7-1 (sectional champs); 4-1-0 NWC, 3-3-1 NCOSA
Head coach: Jason Okuly, 6th year
Formation: 4-3-3-1
Starters back/lost: 4/7
Top returnees: Sr. Isaac Spar, Sr. Skylar Williams, Sr. Wyatt Rettig, Sr. Nick Kamatali, Jr. Jacob Poling
Key newcomers: Fr. Grant Preston, Sr. Michael Crouse, Sr. Kyler Stoll