Varsity soccer soundly clinches season opener

Esteban Serrano, Lead Editor

The Button Soccer team has had much success in the past with winning, and is no stranger to it. Central Catholic remains the defending TAPPS Division I Soccer State Champions after winning the last four state championships, and have also made history by doing so.

On Saturday, Central Catholic hosted it’s first game of the 2020-21 season, taking on SACS and shutting out the Lions, 5-0.

Looking ahead, with all the many challenges inevitable, including the pandemic and it’s toll on the high school sports year, head coach Edward Cartee. He is entering his 9th season with the program, explains his view of the season ahead while sitting down with me before Saturday’s contest, via Zoom.

“When we met at our retreat a couple of weeks ago, and the team was setting goals, we talked about just focusing on improving our execution of our individual roles everyday, and just staying focused on the next opponent one game at a time,” Cartee says.

“I think that the boys are really keeping their heads leveled and focused on trying to achieve our larger goal, by means of steady progress and achieving smaller goals along the way.”

That larger goal, is to win a coveted fifth-straight championship. Something that has never been done in program history. “With that, possibly another season with a high national ranking and victories against public schools, but the primary focus for the team is winning that TAPPS State Championship and along the way, winning the state championship, and we want to try to go undefeated in district,” Cartee says.

MaxPreps / CBS Sports have Central Catholic at a substantial 35-7 record in district, 98-30-16 overall, and 16-1 in the playoffs. Cartee explains how those numbers are “crazy” to hear, but that hard effort by his team has led him to not being shocked when hearing those numbers. “It doesn’t surprise me because of the hard work the boys have put in, it’s just awesome that they have been able to achieve that, but, it’s not been an accident,” Cartee explains.

“They have really applied themselves and their commitment level and attention to detail and preparation, are the reasons why they have succeeded,” Cartee continues.

Another outstanding aspect about the team is in the past few years with national recognition as being one of the best high school soccer programs in the country, many former players have gotten opportunities to play in college. Some have immediately gone on to join San Antonio FC. “It’s a really great thing to see their quality recognized and their hard work rewarded with that type of attention,” Cartee says.

“It’s always been one of my personal goals for the program,” he continues. “For the program to be successful itself while the boys are here, but for us to promote players to the next level. There is no pressure for those players that don’t have the aspiration to do it… When a player chooses to stop playing soccer after his senior season and go to college and focus on his academics, that’s great. There is a ton of respect for that.”

With this, many current players on the team are at the moment, being recruited to play in college. Cartee says that he is “extremely proud” of those guys. He also hopes they can keep the recognition up, and get more players recruited.

COVID-19 has also taken a toll on the high school sports season. With baseball being cancelled this past spring, basketball just under way with some restrictions in place, and the entire Central Catholic football team having to had quarantine this past season after one of it’s own tested positive for the virus, the worst is on many people’s minds right now. “One of the many challenges was being in the hybrid phase,” Cartee says. “It meant that only half of the team was able to train together.”

He’s talking about the hybrid learning phase Central implemented when starting the school year. It was devised of a semester plan where a group of students whose last names were A-M go in one day, and N-Z go in the other, and so on. “The players really turned that into a positive and they really bonded very closely with the players in that group,” he said. “I think that has actually turned into a huge benefit for the team chemistry, now that we have been able to put the group together.”

Cartee goes on about the how the uncertainty of the pandemic can shift needed players or schedule changes into last-minute consideration. “One of the other major challenges with COVID-19 is the possibility of a player being unavailable for the next game with no warning, or the possibility of the other team having to cancel and our schedule being adjusted,” he says.

Of course, the TAPPS Division isn’t taking anything lightly either. In August, they released a 18-page public document on their website, issuing strict guidelines to ensure the safety of the season. Such as, spectators wearing a mask at all times in the stadium, players who test positive must be cleared by an athletic trainer at the school, and that each club must agree to the hazards of entering a stadium and playing on the field, court, etc…

The million dollar question for this season… Can Central Catholic bring a fifth, and historic championship back to Central Catholic?

Cartee says, “I’m very confident that we have the ability to do it. It takes a lot of composure and execution and sometimes a little bit of luck. But, we definitely have the team to do it, and the boys are dedicating themselves everyday to their training, to their studies, and to their off-field discipline, and following protocols to try and give us the best chance possible to succeed.”

The final score of Saturday night’s match was 5-0, and scoring for Central breaks down like this:
1-0  Diego Guajardo (Sr.) goal, Isai Prezas (Soph.) assist
2-0  Sevas Rodriguez (Sr.) goal, Diego Guajardo (Sr.) assist
3-0  Nathan Bermea (Sr.) goal, Isai Prezas (Soph.) assist
4-0  Isai Prezas (Soph.) goal, unassisted
5-0  Anthony Ramirez (Jr.) goal, unassisted (penalty kick, earned by Patrick Armand (Jr.))
“We had a lot of good possession, though we needed to move the ball quicker.  We also need to improve our movement off the ball.  Still, we created quality scoring chances both through teamwork and through individual skill.  In the second half it was good to see improvement from the first half and to see this new team coming together.”
Central Catholic has been featured in publications such as Top Drawer Soccer, one of the top and premier youth soccer media outlets, where they have been nationally ranked for the past four years. Individual players have also been featured in all-American teams, and they have also won the North Texas Elite Showcase two years ago.
With the challenging season ahead, the Buttons look to be successful this season and won’t look back. The next game is Tuesday December 8, at Ferrara Stadium, home of the rival Antonian Apaches. Kickoff is set to begin at 7PM.
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