YOUTH SPORTS: Strikers go from ‘Bad News Bears’ to title contender

The Strikers soccer team includes Malachi Blackington (front row, left), Cordyn Alderman, Eliseo Avalos, Jayson Campbell and Alex Martinez; assistant coach Edgar Martinez (back row, left), head coach Rick Blackington, Shane Kirby, Gabriel Benitez, Gaspar Caracheo, Eleazar Lopez, Alan Lopez, Elijah Todd, David Rodriguez and assistant coach Stephen Todd. Not pictured is Quintan Perez

JENNIFER FIERRO • PICAYUNE STAFF

MARBLE FALLS — What a difference three seasons make.

The Strikers, a 12-and-under boys soccer team representing Granite Country Youth Soccer, is 8-1 on the year.

The team has one game remaining in the regular season. Then, it’s onto the Fall Championship of the Capital Area Soccer Association on Nov. 15-16. If the Strikers can finish in the top two, they’ll advance to the Western District.

This season is a far cry from where the Strikers began 18 months ago.

“We were really the ‘Bad News Bears’ when we started,” head coach Rick Blackington said. “We lacked a lot of basic skills. Now, we’re nice to watch.”

Blackington, who did not pick the players, has coached the team for the last year and a half.

Rules cap the number of goals that can appear on a stats sheet, Blackington said. So officially, the Strikers have scored 26 goals.

“But that’s not true,” he said. “We’ve scored 40 or 50.”

And they’ve allowed only 10.

Last year, the Strikers finished third in the state in their age group. During the first two seasons together, the team hovered around a .500 record.

“They’re beginning to start to understand the concepts of soccer,” the coach said. “They’re playing their positions correctly and working together instead of as solo players. It’s coming together.”

The Strikers watched the Texas A&M University men’s soccer club. The way the Aggies played reinforced how the Strikers wanted to approach their games, Blackington said.

“It’s another visual reminder,” he said. “That’s what it’s supposed to look like. Obviously, I’m extremely proud of the boys. It doesn’t matter if you win or lose; it matters if you give your best effort. They’re giving 100 percent in the practice. I’m super proud of them.”

jfierro@thepicayune.com

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