By AARON MANAGHAN
For whatever reason, Klahowya boys soccer coach Jeff Quinn has had a hard time finding players to fill the pitch.
In fact, the Eagles are playing without a junior varsity team this season.
“Overall, we don’t have the numbers,” Quinn said. “So guys are being given the opportunity, the responsibility, that maybe aren’t quite ready for varsity.”
While the Eagles’ 17-man roster may look like a lot, especially at a smaller school like Klahowya, Quinn said some of his varsity players would likely be on JV with a stronger turnout.
“We have 17 guys out,” Quinn said. “Which is a lot. But at the same time it’s the only 17 I can find in the building ready to play.”
Another contributing factor has been students not turning out or trying other sports. Klahowya lost a key returner, John Lambert, to the golf team, something Central Kitsap also has experienced this season.
“It’s that kind of thing that when you’re a small program, it doesn’t take many,” Quinn said.
Still, even with the inexperience on the team, it’s a challenge Quinn said his Eagles are responding to.
“The big problem with our team is (being) without a JV,” Quinn said. “It’s trial by fire and they’re stepping up.”
Of the Eagles’ 17 players, just six are juniors and seniors. Returning are Darryn Reinertson and Tucker Moran, both seniors, as well as junior John (BJ) McLaughlin. All three will serve as the team’s captains, but Quinn said he’s enlisted the help of all his upperclassmen to make the team’s younger core feel integrated.
“We’ve got a great core,” Quinn said, adding that seniors Justin Shaputis and Logan Knapp as well as junior Patrick Holloway will have prominent roles this season. “And we’ve got great captains. They’ve really stepped up.”
Pulling his upperclassmen aside, Quinn said he wanted them to spread themselves out amongst the younger players.
“I never said it again,” he said. “Every time they spread out.”
Shaputis will share keeping duties with freshman Zander Coleman, one of four freshmen on the team.
“He’s really stepped up too,” Quinn said of Shaputis. “He’s worked really hard. And he’s definitely seeing himself as a leader.”
While Reinertson will control the middle once again for the Eagles as a four-year varsity starter, and Moran will help shore up the defense, Quinn said he’s particularly excited to see what McLaughlin can do in a more prominent role this season.
“BJ’s finally coming into his own,” Quinn said. “He’s a surly kid; very quiet. He lives and breathes soccer. I wish I had a lot of guys like that.”
McLaughlin’s expanded role already paid dividends as he hit the eventual game winner, a 77th-minute goal on a solid turn-and-shoot in a 2-1 win against Washington.
“That shot he wouldn’t have hit last year,” Quinn said. “Last year it would have been more power; hit it, hit it, hit it.”
In that win, improving the Eagles to 1-1-0 this season, sweeper Patrick Holloway helped anchor the Eagles, playing the position “perfectly,” Quinn said.
“At practice he’s kind of goofy,” he said. “But at game time he steps up.”
Something that so far Quinn can say of much of his team.
“It’s a good team,” he said. “They’re a little goofy in the hallways and the classroom. We’ll see what happens.”
Klahowya’s loss came in the team’s season opener against Kingston, a 2-0 defeat.
“Everyone seems to say, ‘Oh, Kingston. They’re the new guys,’” Quinn said. “But they’re a good team.”
Quinn expects the Bucs will be among the tougher Olympic League teams this season as the Eagles try to get back to the postseason.
“They’re working hard,” he said, particularly of his newbies. “And that’s gonna be out big thing. Can these players that are new to the program fill the gap? They’ve been doing that.”
One freshman Quinn said will contribute right away is Marc Barbosa, a forward and midfielder.
“If it was a full varsity team, he’d still be a varsity player,” Quinn said. “He’d be a varsity starter. He’s got all the things a good freshman should have.”
The Eagles traveled to Port Townsend on Tuesday, but results were unavailable at press time. Thursday Klahowya travels to North Mason for a 6:45 p.m. contest.