After a successful preseason slate, the Cleburne Yellow Jackets enter District 9-5A play Friday against Everman.
Cleburne, in its first season under Coach Pete King, is 3-1-3, with its only losses coming in shootouts and a lightning-shortened match.
“Our preseason was more quality than quantity,” King said. “We just competed in two tournaments with an extra game or two. Pretty much every opponent we faced was a playoff team last year, and we either tied or won those all of those games.
“We turned around and played an extra game in Corsicana last week and we had to call it early in a 1-0 loss. Bottom line, I like how we played in preseason because there’s only been two goals scored on us. One we came back and tied it against Lake Dallas, and the other goal was against Corsicana in a shortened game.”
Having only surrendered two goals through seven matches thus far, the Jackets’ defense is what has most stood out to King so far.
“Defensively, that’s a plus,” he said. “As well as the ability to move the ball around. We’re doing a lot better job team-wise of moving the ball around. We have players who can maneuver the ball 1-on-1 and usually be successful. But now it’s about quick passing and moving it around. That’s a huge improvement we’ve seen so far.
“Coming into the season, we knew our goalie is pretty good and our defense is pretty good, and we add that to the ball movement in the midfield, and the midfield coming back and helping defensively. So I’m pleased with that.”
If there’s one key area King would like to see improvement in, it would be finishing on scoring opportunities more consistently.
“We attack pretty well, it’s just being able to finish,” he said. “There hasn’t been a game where we have not had opportunities. Early on, in the freezing cold at Crowley, we had opportunities and we tied in a scoreless game. Even with that, we’ve scored somewhat well, but not as much as we’d like. It’s the final step; we just have to finish.
“Near misses look good but it doesn’t count. If there’s an area we need to improve, it’s finishing. If it was football, it’s finishing in the red zone, not settling for field goals. So in soccer, we need to score goals, not near misses.”
When the Jackets open league play against Everman, King said it will be a good indication of where they stand.
“Friday is going to be huge because Everman is picked to be in the playoffs,” King said. “Everman is the real deal. It’ll be a good indicator of where we stand district-wise playing Everman to start.”
While the opening match against the Bulldogs will be tough, King added that there’s not an easy win on the schedule in league action.
“You’re looking at the schedule, and you can’t figure out who the weak team is,” King said. “Everman is the real deal. Granbury usually reloads pretty well. Crowley is stout. Arlington Seguin has had some up and down years, but this is one of their up years. Burleson has stepped up. Centennial has fallen off just a bit but they were high for so long so they’re still solid. There truly isn’t a ‘gimme’ game anywhere. And Gary Walker at Joshua does a good job.
“You look and think there’s not any easy game. Everman, Granbury, Crowley and Seguin, those are some stout teams and they did well in the preseason against some quality teams.”
Before the season began, King said every year he has the same goals for his team.
“We have the same goals every year,” he said. “Our primary goal is to make the playoffs, second goal would be to win the district, and third goal would be to do better than the previous year. So in a perfect world, we’d make playoffs by being district champ and then at least be in the second round.”
Cleburne and Everman are scheduled for an 8 p.m. start from Yellow Jacket Stadium.