It takes time to rebuild a struggling sports program.
But Montezuma-Cortez High School appears to have the right man for its boys soccer team.
After posting just one win in 2011, new head coach Gary Geppert feels his methods will steer a young Panthers team in the right direction.
Im grateful that I have the opportunity to turn this franchise around, said Geppert, who is assisted by Robert Laymon. We have a very young team. I look at it as an extreme positive. They get to grow into my philosophy.
Geppert comes to southwest Colorado from Houston, Texas. He played and coached high school soccer in the Lone Star State among the nations best.
Gepperts expertise covers all aspects of the game. The Panthers are hoping to catch teams off guard on the field this year.
Weve installed a whole bunch of trickery. Like a deception (method), Geppert said. This is a young team, so were going to play to our strengths. If we have to muddy up the back (field) to make it a slower, low scoring game to get the opposition frustrated, then thats exactly what were going to do.
M-CHS can also kick it into high gear.
Im thinking strike fast, said forward Jaron Carver. When the opportunity comes, hopefully well get a shot.
Carver is no stranger to change. The junior has had a different coach each year at M-CHS. Carver is adjusting to a new system once again.
So far so good.
Every year Ive played soccer, weve switched and switched, he said. Every year is different. You just adapt to it. As long as youre working well with your teammates out there on the field, the coaching will guide you.
Southwestern League, All-Conference goalkeeper Bridger Brenner returns. The sophomore will split time at goalie with junior Auston Hart.
Freshmen Andrew Laymon and Aaron Engel are two youngsters expected to contribute right away. Sophomore Taren Lanier and junior Anthonee Petrose will be key starters as well.
Like 2011, the team is youthful. But there is a new level of confidence brewing at Johnson Memorial Field.
Most of this game is mental. If we have that great mentality at the first or even throughout the whole season, we can go pretty far, Carver said.
The Panthers realize how important maintaining confidence is. Thats why M-CHS is approaching its nonconference season opener at Bayfield on Tuesday, Sept. 4, confidently as a must win situation.
Thats really important. Dont get discouraged soon, said Carver about starting the year on a winning note. I know last year, the first game we got Pagosa (Springs), we got slaughtered. All the practices from then on out, were the same. Just (with our) heads down.
Three 3A schools in Bayfield, Telluride and Ridgway all scrimmaged, along with the Panthers, Saturday at Johnson Field. M-CHS liked what it saw with Bayfield. The Panthers downed the Wolverines last season at home 4-1.
I feel confident about our chances with Bayfield, Geppert said. We used a lot of our bench that game (scrimmage). They used some of their bench. It wasnt really a testament to what were going to see Tuesday.
All it takes to rebuild a program is winning. If the Panthers can get a few victories and then a few more wins each year thereafter, Geppert feels his team will be a contender in the very challenging SWL.
Ive come in and Ive placed new expectations. You will be seeing results, a confident Geppert said. Were going to be surprising some people. I can promise you that.
The Panthers and Wolverines kickoff the 2012 season Sept. 4, at 4 p.m. in Bayfield.