For the first time in several years, Franklin County High School looks to field to robust soccer teams under the direction of experienced coaches.
The girls, under the direction of Franklin County Schools’ new physical education teacher Anna Bull, have 19 players, and the boys, coached by Bill McCullough, have two dozen, which is a good sign for a program that has been in the doldrums in recent years.
“It’s been an inconsistent program in the past,” said Bull, the daughter of Roger Bull, who served as editor of the Apalachicola Times a handful of decades ago.
“We’re starting building from the ground up, we’re looking for consistency and building structure,” she said. “I’ve seen a big improvement in the last three weeks since practice began.
“I would consider it a new and building program. We have a few returning upperclassmen but its predominantly a freshman, sophomore, middle school team,” she said.
Bull, who played soccer while at Jacksonville Wolfson High School, has a long history with the sport. After earning her degree in physical education from Florida State University in 2007, she coached middle school boys and girls soccer in Austin, Texas for 12 of those 15 years.
She said junior Miranda Diaz, who will play center midfielder, is among the team’s most experienced players. “She’s a core leader of the team,” Bull said.
The coach is excited about the prospects of sophomore Laelah Carranza, and junior Alondra Jimenez, who will be starting at center forward. “Alondra has good footwork and a really nice shot,” Bull said.
Three freshmen new to the sport, Jade Lively, Ryan Brown, Layla Acree, who is homeschooled, are showing promise. Brown looks to be the sweeper, and a back-up goalie, with the other two girls finding their niches as the season progresses.
Junior Bobbie Pedrick, who transferred in from Georgia, where she played lacrosse, will serve as the team’s goalie, Bull said.
Senior Kaitlin Robbins, who is new to the sports, has been working hard at practice, and will be slotted in the forward position.
Sophomore Andrea Cruz is a returner from last season. “She’ll be a strong defender for us,” said the coach.
Bull said she is confident she’ll see growth with freshmen Nyashia Davis, also new to soccer, who will be playing midfield, as well as Jasmine Gray. A third freshman, Desiree Messer, has previous knowledge and experience with the sport, and has been refereeing for the youth soccer league. “She’s going to develop into a strong player,” said the coach.
Also refereeing in the youth league is seventh grader Wendy Bernabe, as she joins her classmates Savannah Billingsley and Kate Ward, both new to the game.
Rounding out the roster are newcomers, sixth graders Allysia Belknap, Baileigh Dasher, Luci Paul and Reese Cargill, the latter who Bull describes as “incredibly athletic.”
“I’m excited for those new players to grow and spend some time playing,” Bull said. “This team is excited, they’re committed and always in good spirits. They’re a fun group to coach.
“We are doing a lot of drills involving passing,” she said. “Passing has been our biggest focus and working on positions. We spent the first week-and-a-half doing a lot of dribbling and individual footwork.
“We’ve been playing small-sided games, scrimmaging 3 on 3, and 4 on 4, emphasizing passes and getting touches on the ball and getting kids used to their positions,” Bull said.
After opening on the road Tuesday, the girls will open at home on Tuesday, Nov. 16 against Jefferson County.
The Florida High School Athletic Association has classified the Lady Seahawks in Class 2A, Region 1, District 1, where they will contend againt Quincy Munroe, Rocky Bayou Christian and Port St. Joe.
The boys have a similar classification, with a fifth addition, Wakulla Christian.
Both teams practice on the same field every day from 3 to 5:30 p.m., although the practices conducted separately.
Head Coach Bill McCullough, whose boys don’t open until Tuesday, Nov. 30, when they host Quincy Munroe, has attracted a bumper crop of players, with a strong core of sophomores and junior anchoring the team.
Senior Hunter Duval is slated to play defense, while junior Ethan Shirley will be on defense and midfield, as will Luis Ramirez, Eugenio Sebastian, Josh Greer, Saqueo Aguilar and Alex Virvez. Junior Parker Mock will handle defensive chores.
Juniors slated to play in the midfield-forward slot, are Gideon Dively, Will Luberto and Ronal Colix, while junior to appear playing in defensive-midfield positions are Reece Juno, Brayden McCall and Esteban Bernabe.
Three freshmen include Garyson Millender as goalkeeper, and Jayden Gray and William Chipman as defense-midfield.
The two eighth-graders Enrique Dominguez and Owen Juno will be on defense, seventh-grader Nathaniel Cabrera on defense and midfield; and sixth-graders Presley Odom, as midfield-forward and Jorden Norman as defense and midfield.
“The 2021-22 Franklin County boys soccer program will feature a mixture of some familiar faces and names among returning players along with some faces new to Seahawk soccer,” said McCullough. “Gideon Dively, Luis Ramirez, Hunter Duval and Eugenio Sebastian lead a group of returners that will show experience and knowledge of the game.
“New faces such as Brayden McCall and Will Luberto will bring some speed to the edge of the field. Garyson Millender will return as goalkeeper and will help to anchor a strong and experienced back line,” he said.
“We expect to compete in every match this season,” said the coach, adding that the boys will be tested early when Florida High comes to Eastpoint Dec.1
“We wanted a strong test early in the season to give us a great gauge of where we are as a program,” McCullough said. “It is tough to find an unbiased perspective sometimes as a coach, and an opportunity to compete with a quality program like Florida High will give us some perspective early in our season.
“Our main priority is to play the brand of soccer that will allow us to compete at the highest level that we can,” said the coach. “We will be physically aggressive defensively, sound with our passing and we may take more shots than anyone in the state. We want to force the issue in the attacking 18-yard box and allow our aggression to create scoring opportunities.”
McCullough signaled the enthusiasm shared by Bull with the signs of a rejuvenated soccer program.
“I am thrilled to be leading our program this season. Of our roster of 20-23 young men, 13 of them are participating in other athletic programs as well. This is exactly how we will build a competitive athletic department, across the board, at Franklin County,” he said. “We have an excitement and energy building in our soccer program now and Coach Anna Bull and I will be sure to use that energy toward progress.”
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