Dawson County High School Varsity Boys Soccer Coach Jed Lacey says that he is excited about his team this year. The Tigers have high expectations every year, after going to the state playoffs five out of the last six years.
Last year the team lost to St. Pius in the first round. The Golden Lions eventually won the 2013 Class AAA State championship.
The Tigers finished with a 13-4 record last season.
Dawson County lost its two leading scorers in Josh Lund, 21 goals, and Jose Miranda, with 10 goals. Miranda was a four-year starter and Lund started for three years. The two players will be hard to replace, according to Lacey.
However, eight starters will return this year for the Tigers and there is reason for optimism in the Dawson County camp as preseason practice concludes.
There are nine seniors on this year's team.
Forwards Cole Edwards and Brandon Lund return for the Tigers. Both players scored eight goals each last season. Also returning is center midfielder Sal Mendoza. Mendoza, a junior, had six goals a year ago.
"Brandon Lund, a junior, will be moving up from outside mid to forward to replace his brother. He is a true striker with amazing feet and knows how to put the ball in the back of the net," Lacey said.
Lund will be joined up front with returning starter Cole Edwards, a senior.
"Cole is so unselfish with the ball and can either score or set up a teammate as he did last year helping Josh Lund reach 21 goals," Lacey said.
In the midfield for the Tigers will be Josh Sage at left outside mid and Mendoza.
"It is so nice to have a player of Josh's ability and height, 6'2," on the outside. He brings big time athleticism on our outside. He helps us in playing the ball in the air with his incredible vertical jumping ability," Lacey said. "Sal Mendoza is a tremendously skilled passer and is the quarterback of our offense. Sal makes us go. He is the true essence of what a center mid is and when he is not setting everyone else up, can score also. If you fall off Sal he will make you pay."
Two newcomers to the midfield will be junior Randy Schultz at right outside mid and sophomore Alan Sanchez at center mid.
There will also be depth at center mid with senior Josh Litherland and junior David Velasquez. Both these players are returning to the program after taking a year off.
The Tigers will also have depth on the outside with sophomore Rigo Jansen and senior Daniel Gonzalez. Gonzalez moved from Madrid, Spain this year.
Dawson County's defense should be strong with four seniors back there, three are returning starters. Drew Bishop at sweeper, Ben Leaver at stopper, Austin Stewart at left back, and Jacob Miller at right back.
"All these guys have great experience playing together and bring speed and a mental toughness," Lacey said.
Defensive backup will be sophomore Logan Hurst. Hurst ran track last season.
At goalie will be four-year starter Brooks Fulford. Fulford had 11 shutouts last season. He holds several school records at the position.
"Every time we walk on the pitch we know we have a chance to win because of Brooks being in goal. Brooks is one of a kind. He is a difference maker," Lacey said.
The Tigers will play soccer powers Gainesville, North Forsyth, Stephens County and Cartersville. All are non-region games.
Dawson County also plays in a very tough region, which includes teams like East Hall, West Hall, Buford and North Hall.
"I expect us to make another trip to state and make a deep run in it. This team is deep and talented...," Lacey said.
The first home game will be Feb. 18 against Gainesville High School. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m.