Daniel Forsythe’s first game as head coach of the Mason County boys’ soccer team resulted in a 4-4 draw with in-town rival St. Patrick.
He made it clear to his team it was nothing to be celebrated.
“I’m never happy with a draw. I’ve instructed my kids from the very beginning that a draw is a loss. That does not count on your win record. That’s the only thing anybody looks at, is the W’s,” he said after the game.
The Royals built off of the game and, once the first win came in the fifth game of the season, went on to finish 7-9-1 after a 1-0 loss to eventual 10th Region runner-up Pendleton County in the 38th District semifinals.
Now, entering his second season, Forsythe is hoping to continue to build off that first game and the rest of the 2018 campaign.
“That definitely sets a precedent, I think, for the rest of the year,” said Forsythe in a phone interview on Wednesday. “Coming in against your hometown rival and not being able to defeat them the first time – I think that sparked a fire under our kids and got them motivated to work harder for the rest of the year.”
The Royals went 0-3 following the draw with the Saints and were outscored a combined 19-4. After that came four straight wins to put the team at 4-3-1. That type of slow start is something the second-year coach is hoping to avoid this fall, both to the season as a whole and in each game throughout.
“It’s something I’ve talked about all last year. That’s really nothing you can teach as a coach,” said Forsythe. “Passion – that’s something you have to develop within yourself. I do think it’s something we can encourage and something that has to be worked on from the very first day of practice – set expectations high from day one and let them know that complacency will not be accepted on this team.”
Nicholas Thomas – the team’s leading scorer last year with 13 goals – is back this year and is expected to lead the charge with that. They also get second-leading scorer Anwar “A.P.” Perry back as part of a strong junior class to go along with a three-member senior class comprised of Cody McCarty, Dylan Mitchell and Zane Sanders.
“I can tell you that the fire and energy Nick Thomas brings is very infectious and is something that, like I mentioned earlier, is something you cannot teach into a person,” said Forsythe. “You cannot ingrain that kind of energy into somebody.”
Forsythe is also expecting more of a defensive approach with seven players departing with graduation, including several key defenders and goalkeeper Mario Soto, who averaged 10 saves per game as a senior. Rising junior Jake Wenz is expected to play in goal this fall.
“That’s a change we’re going to have to make and I’m not sure if that’s just a change in formation or if that’s a change in the style of play that we’re going to have to make, but we’ll see during preseason and how that works out,” said Forsythe.
The fourth game of the 4-0 stretch in 2018 was a 5-3 victory over 38th District foe Pendleton County, led by Conner Harper, who had 47 goals as a senior last year. The victory ended a 14-game winless streak over the Wildcats and gave the Royals the program’s first victory over Pendleton County since September 23, 2004.
Mason County met with Pendleton County again in the district semifinals and fell, 1-0, on a goal from Cody Mains in the 76th minute. The Wildcats went on to win the district with a 1-0 victory over Harrison County and advanced to the 10th Region final before falling to Montgomery County in double overtime.
“That was one of the games, I think, we really proved to ourselves and everyone else we were contenders in the district and when you look to see how far that Pendleton went last year, that kind of proved to me that, had we beaten them in the district, we were contenders at least in the first round of region,” said Forsythe.
“If the ball had rolled slightly differently during that game, I could definitely have seen us going just as far as they went. I thought we were very evenly matched in that district game, so I was very proud of our team,” added Forsythe. “I know they hung their heads pretty low after that loss, but I did not.”
The goal now is to continue to build off of the 2018 season and not just compete, but win a district title. The program is hoping to build community support with another alumni game set for August 3, before the Royals get a good measuring stick to open the season on August 13 with a home game against Campbell County – a team that won the 37th District last year and the 10th Region the year before.
Forsythe is hoping for a better start than last year, but the real goal is to win the district title. The Royals last made it to the 10th Region tournament in 2016 and have yet to claim a title in the 38th District since joining in 2012.
“Our goal is always – and I said this last year – our goal is always to win our district. As soon as we can consistently win our district, we’ll change our goals. As of now, winning district is it,” said Forsythe.
“We have plans of putting up a banner on our field that’s going to list our district wins, our regional wins and man, we’ve got to fill that thing up, but we’ve got to start with district first and once we achieve that goal we’ll change it to something else,” added Forsythe. “That should be our only focus as of now.”