Marco Vasquez

Marco Vasquez and the Cleburne Yellow Jackets, along with the Burleson Elks and Joshua Owls, are playing host this week to 28 teams from across Texas in the second edition of the Johnson County Showcase.

Later this week, 31 varsity boys soccer programs from across the state will be in action on fields at Cleburne, Joshua, and Burleson high schools in the 2020 Johnson County Showcase.

Last year was the inaugural Johnson County Showcase, and the tournament has already grown in size in just its second year.

“Last year was a very fun and exciting tournament with a ton of very good teams,” Joshua coach Thad Goodling said. “This year, we were able to expand the field to 31 teams with many of them being playoff teams last year. ... I expect to see some top level teams play this weekend in the area with some great young players getting to showcase their skill and showcase their teams from all over the state.”

The action begins at 10:45 a.m. Thursday with Lake Worth vs. Crowley at Joshua’s Owl Stadium and Fort Worth Poly vs. Mexia at Burleson ISD Stadium kicking things off. There are 17 matches scheduled for Thursday in Joshua, Burleson, and Cleburne.

“I’m just excited that we were able to generate so much positivity from last year’s tournament and are able to make it bigger this year,” Burleson coach Travis Hughes said. “I expect that it will be very competitive again this year, and it’s great to play a bunch of teams from various parts of the state.”

“Our goal with this showcase is to bring top-quality competition from around the state and we’ve added to that list in year 2,” Cleburne coach Drew McKinnie said. “We should see some great games again this year.”

While there will be a few teams from around the area in action — such as Burleson Centennial, Crowley, Everman, and Granbury, in addition to the three host teams — there are also teams traveling from much further, including Dumas (358 miles from Cleburne), Amarillo (325 miles), Tascosa (325 miles), Canyon Randall (322 miles), Caprock (321 miles), Palo Duro (304 miles), Wolfforth Frenship (281 miles), Midland Lee (280 miles), and Abilene Wylie (140 miles), among others.

With so many teams from such different parts of the state — which also includes Colleyville Heritage, Mexia, Lake Worth, Mansfield Summit, Kaufman, Bridgeport, and several programs from Fort Worth — competing in one tournament, Goodling said it provides different looks for his team than styles they may be used to.

“I think this year is going to be a lot like last year’s tournament, where teams are going to be able to learn a lot about themselves,” Goodling said. “They will get to play opponents that they have never seen and different play styles compared to what we are used to down here. The nice thing about our tournament is teams do not have to play the same teams each year and we are able to give them different opponents. The biggest change we have this year was allowing teams to choose between three or four games depending on what they wanted.”

With district play beginning in less than two weeks for the Owls, Jackets, and Spartans, the Johnson County Showcase provides an opportunity to fine tune some things or work out some kinks before the matches really start to matter.

“We’re looking to finalize some pieces and put the puzzle together,” McKinnie said. “We’ll be playing five games in the next five days, so we’ll have plenty of opportunities to learn and grow before district starts.”

For Hughes, who led his Elks to the regional tournament last season, he’s looking for one big thing out of his team this weekend.

“The biggest thing that we want to see is some consistency,” Hughes said. “We have a very young team with a lot of sophomores, so hopefully playing a tournament such as this will help us fine tune things and find our groove before district hits.”

As the Owls prep for their District 14-5A opener on Jan. 24, Goodling said he’s looking to see his team improve offensively.

“The main thing we are looking for out of our kids is to really start combining in the attack,” Goodling said. “We have been without two starters for most of the season and have been able to get some young guys a lot of experience but the main focus is to really try to get our attack going. Our defense has been very strong over the last two weekends and now we want to build on that to become a very dangerous team going into district and into playoffs.”

Cleburne’s first match of the Showcase is set for 4 p.m. Thursday against Kaufman. The Owls will play Burleson Centennial at 2:15 p.m. Thursday. And the Elks’ first match is 5:45 p.m. Thursday vs. Canyon Randall.

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