PREP BOYS SOCCER: Panthers aim to break through

INDEPENDENCE — Seniors Aaron Padilla and Evan Hoover have seen Central’s boys soccer team come close to emerging as league and state contenders.

The Panthers have advanced to the state playoffs each of the last three years — and each time Central’s season has ended in the first round.

“We’ve gotten stuck in the first round of state,” Hoover said. “We want to get past that.”

What was most frustrating for players was that it wasn’t a matter of being outclassed.

“The small details matter,” Hoover said. “We just need to fix the small mistakes and capitalize on our opportunities.”

Both players believe the Panthers are ready to compete for a league title and make a deep run at state.

“I think it’s possible for us to get a league championship,” Padilla said.

At first glance, that appears to be a tall order. Antonio Rincon and Jose Herrera, two of the team’s leading scorers from last year, both graduated.

In spite of that, this year’s team boasts an experienced roster, many of whom have grown up and played soccer together for years.

“We have a lot of experience on the team,” Padilla said. “We should be solid everywhere. We don’t have a star player, but we have good quality at every position.”

Padilla, who used to run cross-country, has chosen to focus on soccer this fall ,and the Panthers have been focused on going from a good team to a great one.

To help accomplish that, many of the players joined a men’s soccer league during the summer, building chemistry and receiving some harsh lessons.

“We learned we need to be more physical — a lot more physical,” Padilla said. “We have to be smarter and quicker with the ball. We have to have three touches max and then pass the ball.”

The Panthers play at Thurston Wednesday (today) at 4:30 p.m. before hosting Sprague Thursday at 7:30 p.m.

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