Plano drives for repeat title

Even with a target on their backs all season as the defending Class 5A state champs in boys’ soccer, Plano Senior High continues their march to a shot at another state crown on Friday night when the Wildcats (17-4-1) face Flower Mound (11-6-6). Bob Weir’s Wildcats won their playoff opener earlier in the week with a 3-1 win over Cedar Hill. In that win, Plano got two goals from senior forward Zach Balthazar and another from Michael Darrow.

“We had a pretty good first half. We came out and scored two goals,” Weir said. “I thought we played fairly well. We tried to inspire them at half time and told them exactly what they needed to do and I think they did just the opposite. The first 15-20 minutes, Cedar Hill took the ball to us, scored a goal and got back into it. We recovered, put a third one in and opened the game up so we could feel comfortable for the last 15-20 minutes.

"It was a good start. I told the kids afterwards that we’re in the playoffs now and we’d better have two halves like the first half. We can’t play a good half and then not play that well the second half. Hopefully in our next match against Flower Mound, we’ll step up and play two good halves.”

Speaking of Flower Mound, they advanced with a 1-0 win over Keller earlier in the week. The Jaguars got their lone goal from Logan Burgess and will now face the Wildcats.

“In our sport, we don’t have the luxury of having teams all through the middle schools and extra coaches who can scout, so we’ve only seen them once,” Weir said. “I talked to one of the coaches that played them earlier in the year and he told us what strengths they have. They’re a well-coached team.

"We had somebody watch their last game. He said they have a solid defense and they push really hard on corners and free kicks. They’ve got a lot of height in the back. We’re expecting a good game with them. I think it’s a 50/50 game. Both teams are outstanding. We’re not taking Flower Mound lightly because they finished fourth (in their district). They’re in the same type of district as we are - a very competitive district.”

Last year, Plano won the state crown with a 25-3-5 record, the Wildcats’ sixth state crown under Weir, who has coached there since 1978. Even though much of that team is gone, his 2010 team has done an excellent job of handling being the reigning state champs and always getting the absolute best effort from their opposition.

“I think the kids have done a tremendous job this year. We only had three boys who played full-time last year return,” Weir said. “I think you’ve got to turn it into a positive. You realize that when you play other teams, they are inspired and they want to beat you. It just makes you more competitive so every game, you can step on the field and play your best. It helps prepare us for playoffs because we realized that people were stepping up because we are the state champions.”

Michael Darrow is the team’s top scorer with 18 goals. Junior striker Patrick O’Day and Zach Balthazar have scored 12 each. Balthazar also has five assists. Senior midfielder Austin Mading leads the Wildcats in assists with eight. Senior goalkeeper Austin Cote is rock-solid between the posts.

“We had two or three forwards back that helped us out last year that are probably our strength up top. We have a senior goalie that played last year and he’s been superb for us,” Weir said.”We basically have the same record as we did last year. I’ve been really pleased with it. We’re not physically near as big as we were last year and I think that’s the biggest concern I have. Physical teams have been stronger than us and have been able to take away our type of game.

"Overall, the kids have played fantastic as a unit. We have three or four people up front who can score and everybody else has done a good job on defense. We haven’t had too many teams other than Jesuit in the second game that outplayed us and put the ball in a couple of time. We’ve been pleased overall with what we have.”