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Charles City soccer holds pre-season potluck, gets ready for 2nd season

Press photo by John Burbridge Charles City keeper Ben Schwickerath leaps for a shot that sails over the crossbar during a match last season against Hudson.
Press photo by John Burbridge
Charles City keeper Ben Schwickerath leaps for a shot that sails over the crossbar during a match last season against Hudson.
By John Burbridge sports@charlescitypress.com

CHARLES CITY — Offsides in football, or should we clarify “American Football”, is pretty much self-explanatory.

Well, maybe some Kansas City Chiefs fans need a little further explanation.

But offsides in soccer is the most common point of contention from players, coaches, parents and fans new to the sport.

During a potluck pre-season get-together Thursday night in the Charles City High School cafeteria, Comet soccer head coach Brad McKenzie played a video presentation outlining the factors that initiate the infraction.

In a nutshell, offsides in soccer occurs on the attacking side of the field when a player is closer to an opponent’s goal than the ball and the second-last opponent — the last opponent is usually the keeper.

Why such a rule infuriates American sport fans who generally regard a wide receiver getting behind a secondary for touchdown bomb or a deft outlet pass to a released guard for a resounding slam-dunk as among the most exciting plays in sports may be understandable. But the offsides rule in soccer, which dates back to the early 19th century, does discourage “cherry picking” and prevents the game from devolving into an endless volley of long kicks back and forth across the pitch.

McKenzie also played several videos with actors depicting overzealous “soccer moms” and other parents on a collision course with Dr. Phil. Yeah, the performances were a little over-the-top but not all that unrealistic.

With the official start of the practice season on March 18 and the Comets’ first match six days later, McKenzie also went over several team policies and objectives for the high school’s second soccer season.

“It took 10 … 15 years for last year to happen,” McKenzie said of the long struggle to get a soccer program started at the school.

Like last season, the Comets will be a coed program that will field varsity and junior varsity teams.

“We’re due to have 21 games this year,” McKenzie said. “I can’t help but thank (Charles City activities director) Todd Forsyth for making that possible.”

Last season, the Comets had 42 players. This season, from those who backed up interest with open-gym-turnout commitment, McKenzie anticipates more than 50.

“About 16 of them are girls, which is more than we had last year,” McKenzie said. “For a girls team, we still need about 21.”

As one might suspect, the Comets took their lumps in their debut season as the varsity went winless amid a schedule that included seasoned and formidable programs such as Waverly-Shell Rock, Columbus Catholic and Hudson.

“The thing that stood out for us last year was that we saw the speed of the game at the high school level,” McKenzie said. “It’s a big jump from YMCA soccer to high school soccer, and many or our players hadn’t played since they last played YMCA soccer.”

The local YMCA soccer program goes to eighth grade.

“There’s a lot more running involved. You’ve got to train much harder if you want to keep up at this level.”

What the Comets didn’t have going into last season that they do going into the upcoming one is experience.

Among the returning letter-winners are senior keeper Ben Schwickerath, senior defensive midfielder Mariah McKenzie, senior defender Isaak Jensen, senior defensive midfielder Arturo Seja, junior midfielder Braheim Rios, junior winger Hayden Pleggenkuhle, junior defender Kaleb Byers, sophomore striker Angel Juarez, and sophomore defensive midfielder Toni Maloy.

Even in the event of a sudden warm-up, the Comets will likely start off practicing indoors in the old middle school gym at North Grand Avenue where they’ve held open-gym sessions twice a week. But if there has ever been a case of an indoor practice being rained out, the Comets just may end up suffering that fate.

“We’ve already have about four buckets collecting leaks from the roof,” McKenzie said. “It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when all that snow melts.”

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