WARNER ROBINS -- Houston County grabbed a little statewide attention last Friday when the Bears’ boys soccer team went on the road and shut out two-time defending state champion and national champion McIntosh 3-0.
McIntosh hadn’t lost in 54 matches, and the win served as a bit of revenge for the Bears, who had lost to the Chiefs in the past two GHSA Class AAAAA title games.
The memory of a win like that can linger long in the mind of a fan base, but it’s the memory of last season’s 8-1 drubbing in the state championship game that has the Houston County locker room focused on much bigger victories to come this season.
“They don’t care about region and they don’t care about anything else,” Houston County head coach Jason Kirk said. “They’re here to win to win a state championship.
“Last year’s state final wasn’t real fun. It was a horrible, horrible ending for them as kids.”
The 2014 Bears were young, a team Kirk admitted largely overachieved. Houston County had to play every playoff game on the road and trailed in each before finding a way pull out victories and advance.
This year’s squad boasts nine seniors with key performers up and down the formation.
Will Pospisil, Jonathan Scruggs and Steven Moore were each selected to the DiVarsity All-Star game as juniors and now lead the team as seniors. Pospisil is the anchor on defense, Scruggs holds the midfield together, and All-Middle Georgia Player of the Year Steven Moore is one of the most prolific goal scorers in the state.
Moore has picked up right where he left off last season, recording hat tricks in four of the Bears’ first five games.
“We’re very much senior-laden this year,” Kirk said. “Last year in the championship game, we only started two seniors. These guys have already played in two state championships, so they’re experienced.”
Not everything, however, has gone to plan this season.
Scruggs was involved in a two-car collision on March 4 that snarled traffic on Russell Parkway and left the senior leader hospitalized. The Anderson (S.C) commitment was fortunate to walk away with just a concussion, bruises and a few burns from the air bag deployment.
He missed the trip to McIntosh, but he was in uniform and played Wednesday in the Bears’ 7-0 weather-shortened win over Veterans, improving Houston County to 8-0.
“We were talking about it in our coaches meeting and I mentioned how bad I felt for (Scruggs), and my dad (assistant coach Gary Kirk) said, ‘You know, that kid’s lucky just to be alive,’” Kirk said. “When you put it in that perspective, it helps. Obviously, he would’ve loved to play, but maybe we’ll play McIntosh again in the state tournament.”
His return will add to an already deep squad.
Kirk advocates a fast, pressing-style of play that showcases the speed and depth throughout his roster. The Bears take advantage of the high school unlimited substitution rule and attack opponents with waves of fresh legs off the bench. They play together with a chemistry born from not only years on the field together at Houston County, but years together as youth players with the Central Georgia Soccer Association.
“I’ve only been here four years, but this is definitely the best team we’ve ever had,” Kirk said. “Their work ethic is remarkable. Whether it’s their work in the classroom or their work in the community, with the social work they’re required to do, I don’t have to worry about any of that stuff. I love coaching these boys.”
Houston County hopes to use that work ethic to start its march to a first state championship when it opens Region 2-AAAAA play Monday against Jones County.