After he was hired to coach Montezuma-Cortez High School’s boys soccer team earlier this year, Dawson Emrich looked at his team’s projected roster and pored over the program’s recent results.
In doing so, the former Durango High School and Fort Lewis College alum realized that he would have his work cut out for him if he hoped to rebuild a program that did not win a game last season and notched just ten wins over the last four years.
Never one to be dissuaded by a challenge, Emrich set to workouts and getting to know his players. From the moment that he took over, he stressed discipline and accountability and already, the results are starting to show.
“Culture building is No. 1 in my book,” said the first-year head coach, who was part of the Fort Lewis College soccer team that won the Division II National Championship in 2011. “I stress the little things like being on time and bringing your gear. After you do those things, the soccer tactics will fall into place.”
Figuring to key this year’s turnaround on the field will be a roster composed of several upperclassmen and a handful of promising newcomers. Eight seniors will look to provide leadership while younger players will be counted on to play valuable minutes.
In the goal this season for M-CHS will be Harley Benally, who played as a defender and midfielder last year. Although new to the goalkeeper role, the senior is already showing improvement at his new position.
“Harley Benally is stepping up, and he is going to try to play some goalie for us,” Emrich said. “Goalie is probably one of our weaknesses right now, but we’re aware of that, and (Benally) is really improving.”
Hoping to assist their first-year goalkeeper in keeping balls out of the net will be senior defenders Jackson Byerly and Sean Higgins, who are both exceptional athletes with noses for the ball.
Anchoring the team’s midfield will be sophomore Bruce Cudkowicz, junior Tyler Cutrone and sophomore Hayden Tallmadge, who together will look to push the pace and create offensive opportunities.
Junior Aldon Adams, who was M-CHS’s most consistent goal scorer last season, will look to provide offensive punch up front for a team that scored 10 goals in 14 total games last season.
When asked about his team’s goals for this season, Emrich said that his team will begin by looking to win a game and then look toward finishing with a .500 record. More important than wins and losses, however, will be the attitude that players bring each and every day.
“We want to bring positive energy to our practices and we want to have a consistent willingness to improve,” Emrich said. “I’ve been telling our student athletes that I want to make them into good people with good characters.”
The Panthers will open their regular season at home against Bloomfield on Aug. 24 and will play their first road contest of the year against Kirtland Central on Aug. 31. The team will open its league schedule against Pagosa Springs on Sept. 28.