Despite losing several prolific scorers to graduation, Lincoln still might be the team to beat in Apollo Conference boys soccer.
The defending Apollo champion graduated its top player in Garrett Slack, an All-State selection last season after scoring 47 goals, while going 11-0-1. But the team returns several experienced players.
“Lincoln was on top last year, and I think it should be a good run between them, Mattoon, and us,” said Mahomet-Seymour coach Jeremy Davis. “I always like our chances, but we have a lot of new pieces that need to prove themselves.”
Returning for Lincoln are two seniors that were an important part of the offense last season. That includes Cadge Kinglsey, the team’s second-leading goal scorer with 14 along with assist leader Chris Slack (33) and junior Aidan Gowin, who had another 23 assists.
Goaltender J.D. Klopp graduated, but first-team All-Apollo selection Ashton Bottlesand returns on defense. Bottles, Klopp, and Slack were all members of the First Team, while Gowin was a Second-Team member.
Mahomet-Seymour and Mattoon remain strong, though.
The Bulldogs lost their top five goal scorers from last season and does not return any of its five All-Apollo players.
“Nick Tjahjadi was out most of last season with an injury,” said Davis. “He controls the game well in the middle for us and should be pretty impactful. Kai Jones and Isaac Warren were impactful sophomores last year for us. I think they are going to have pretty big impacts this year on the scoring side.”
Mattoon, which finished third in the Apollo at 7-3-2, lost All-Apollo first-team selections Trent Hettinger and Quincy Hamilton and second-teamer Jackson Whalin. The Green Wave, though, return second-team members in the fourth-year starting goalkeeper Jason Skocy and midfielder Quentin Wright.
It will be the final year for longtime Mattoon coach Ryan Ghere.
“I’m not sure who the top player in the conference is, but we have some pretty good players,” said Ghere. “Quentin Wright has put in a lot of work since last season, and I think he will have a great senior season. Ty Eastin will be a solid defender for us. Jason Skocy could play goalkeeper for us but maybe a force as a field player as well. Andy Karpus is going to need to step up and be a consistent goal scorer for us.”
Riding off into the sunset with a conference championship, of course, would be the dream scenario for the coach.
“I believe this could be anyone’s chance to win a conference championship,” said Ghere. “Lincoln won last season, and Mahomet has finished first or second since they joined the conference. I think we can be right there as well. Our goal is to be competing for a conference championship.”
Mount Zion was the final team with a winning conference record at 6-5-1. The Braves return All-Apollo first-team member Kameron Clark, as well as Luke Schumacker. The team also brings back Zach Harvey, a member of the Second Team. All three are seniors.
Charleston, fifth in the Apollo, returns several key players on a young, athletic team, which includes second-team All-Apollo selection Marshall Smith and Kyle Ross, who scored 10 goals last season. Three players who had been expected to start, though, have moved out of the area – Joe Lindley, Luke Newell and William Reynolds.
Taylorville finished 2-11 in the Apollo, while Effingham went 0-12.
Apollo Players to Watch
Ashton Bottles (Lincoln) – Bottles was a First-Team member last season as a defender. He will likely be a top defender in the Apollo again.
Kameron Clark, Luke Schumaker, and Zach Harvey (Mount Zion) – All three players made the All-Apollo Team last season. While their positions and stats are unavailable, the trio could help the Braves jump into the mix into the conference conversation.
Aidan Gowin & Chris Slack (Lincoln) – The two players combined for 56 assists last season and neither were given All-Apollo nods. That has to carry a chip on their shoulder. While Garrett Slack was an exceptional player, someone still has to get the ball into scoring position.
Mitchell Mcannaly (Mahomet-Seymour) – The senior owns the most goals returning to the team with seven goals. He will be one of many players looking to replace the combined 53 goals lost from last season in five seniors.
Kyle Ross (Charleston) – Ross led the Trojans in scoring with 10 goals. Ross had an outstanding track season and his speed is likely better. He could break out this season on the field offensively.
Jason Skocy (Mattoon) – Skocy has been a mainstay in the goal but Ghere mentioned he could play in the field more this season. Having that versatility will be beneficial for the Green Wave as a whole.
Marshall Smith (Charleston) – The lone returning All-Apollo player is poised to control the middle for the Trojans. Leaving the program with a winning record and a First-Team selection is going to be on his mind.
Quentin Wright (Mattoon) – Wright has put in a very successful offseason and could breakout this year. Among those in the midfield, Wright will be at the top.