The Bulldogs have one senior and three juniors to go along with eight freshmen and eight sophomores
DIXON — Being the only senior on Dixon's soccer team is nice in one way for Skyler Parker, but he knows it hampers the Bulldogs at the same time.
“It's nice, but it's a little more leadership than I'm used to,” the midfielder said.
There's going to be a lot of inexperience on this squad. Parker is the only senior, there's just three juniors and eight sophomores as well as eight freshmen.
It might slow down the Bulldogs, who finished 12-7 last season and were district runners up to Fatima in Class 1 Division 8 (districts have not been released yet this year).
Parker, though, said those eight sophomores were pretty decent last year, so a full year under their belt could prove useful.
“We're used to having about 10 upperclassmen, but I was pretty confident in the freshmen last year,” Parker said. “I'm looking forward to another season with them.”
Good thing too, because a lot of them will have to step in to fill the positions vacated by six graduates. The freshmen too.
“I'll have three, if not four, freshmen starting,” said Dixon coach Ron Bodkins. “But the freshmen that I'm looking to play are athletes. They play other sports, so that helps, they have that natural ability and they pick things up quickly.”
It's nice to have so many younger players for the future, but it's hard on a program, and stressful for the underclassmen, to have to throw them into game action before they're ready.
Bodkins, who is in his fifth year at Dixon, has also said he will probably shuffle players around, saying four of the six returners will be playing in different positions than they did last year. Fullback John Schaffner and midfielder Parker will be the two to hold in their old spots.
One of the players who was a defender last year has been labeled as a player to watch by his coach because of the moves he's had to make.
“Dylan Ramsey was one of my starting fullbacks last year and I've pulled him up to striker this year,” Bodkins said. “He has some speed and he's been working on his ball control.”
Another is Anthony Baker.
He played goalkeeper last year, but he has been moved to striker. Bodkins said he might be moved back and forth, though.
A freshmen will take Baker's spot if he plays striker.
“Lane Barber, I've been working him in practice,” Bodkins said. “If I have to pull Anthony up that's where Lane will go and he'll be my starting keeper.”
Injuries have forced Bodkins hand to move one of the players.
Daniel Simpson has been told his calves build up calcium and it causes discomfort to try to sprint up and down the field, so Bodkins has moved him to the defensive side of the field to try to limit the distance he runs.
“If Simpson ever gets to 100 percent I'll move him back to midfield and let him start scoring,” Bodkins said. “He's got too much speed and knowledge to trap him back at the fullback position.”
All of it sounds like a giant band-aid for a team that will limp through the season, but Bodkins and Parker vehemently deny that's the case.
“We're a young team with a lot of inexperience, but if the boys will gel and come together they should be competitive with just about everybody we've got on our schedule,” Bodkins said.
Both Bodkins and Parker set their sights on the same goal for the season.
“Lord willing, we'll be playing for the district championship,” Bodkins said. “Time will tell. We'll just have to wait and see.”
Parker though, is tired of just playing in it, he wants to win it.
Last year, the Bulldogs lost to Fatima 1-0 after the Comets scored a goal with four minutes left in regulation.
“I want to get the District title,” Parker said. “We've got second all three years in high school. I'm ready to have our names up in lights on the side of the gym. I truly think this team can do it. We should've had it last year.”
The Bulldogs first game will be on August 22 against New Covenant in Dixon. It'll be the first time in Bodkins' five years that Dixon will not square off against Laquey.
It will also be the first time the Bulldogs have a full schedule — 20 games and a tournament.