Over the last four seasons, the Montezuma Cortez High School boys soccer team has won just four games. After dropping from the Class 4A level to the Class 3A level prior to this season however, the Panthers are hoping to turn things around.
Leading the Panthers for the second consecutive season will be head coach Sean Fitzgerald, whose defensive oriented style began paying dividends for the Panthers late last year.
Planning to again implement a defensive style of play this year, Fitzgerald is confident that this year’s team will be competitive.
“We’re at 22 guys (this year) and that’s far better than last year when we started with ten,” said Fitzgerald. “I think a reasonable goal for us is to make the state playoffs.”
In trying to accomplish that goal, the Panthers will rely heavily on all-conference goalie Bridger Brenner, who is entering his senior season. One of the Panthers verbal leaders on and off the field, Brenner is looking for big things from his team.
“I think we have a pretty good chance of making it to the playoffs,” said Brenner. “That’s obviously our goal.”
Leading the Panthers at forward this season, senior captain Taren Lanier and sophomore striker Manual Marquez will look to provide offense.
“We have some pretty strong midfield,” said Lanier. “We have to work together and we’ll be good.”
Figuring to pace the Panthers in the midfield will be junior Aron Engel, a versatile athlete capable of pushing the pace or dropping back on defense. Senior Aaron Lewis will look to anchor the Panthers defense.
“We’re looking really good,” said Engel. “There are a lot of returners and a lot of newer kids coming back. Dropping down is going to help us a lot.”
As part of their 3A schedule, the Panthers will play league matchups against Ridgway, Alamosa, Center, Bayfield, Telluride, Crested Butte and Pagosa Springs.
The Panthers will open their season at home against Palisade on Aug. 23. The game will begin at 3 p.m.
“Our goal is to see how we do as a team,” said Lanier of the season-opening matchup. “We are hoping to come out with a win.”