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Giants, Panthers make impression at scrimmage

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SHOT: Marion's Kyle Coryea fires a shot around Oak Hill's Corey Griffen and Thommy Seybold (22) during the Grant County boys soccer jamboree Saturday at Marion High School.
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ON THE MOVE: Eastbrook's Bryan Popoca dribbles bewteen Mississinewa's Noah Drank (5) and Josh O'Connell during the Grant County boy soccer jamboree Satuday at Marion High School.

By CHUCK LANDIS - clandis@chronicle-tribune.com

A dress rehearsal for the 2019 Grant County boys' soccer season Saturday at Marion's Dick Lootens Stadium became even more condensed when thunder and rain brought the scrimmage to an early end.

Yet, even though Marion's Giants didn't get to play their second period, coach Jorge Berry saw enough to come away with high expectations for their season that begins at home Wednesday against Fort Wayne Snider. The Giants dominated Oak Hill 4-0 in the first 30-minute session with Kyle Coryea and JD Fagan each scoring two goals.

"It would have been nice to get the second half in, but it's a judgement call," Berry said about the decision. "But there's no question I'm happy with the way we played, and I told the guys after the birth of my kids and getting married this is the happiest I've been because we came out and played so well.

"We controlled every aspect of the game and we did a lot of good things," he continued. "But we worked really hard and we deserved that."

Eastbrook also made a favorable impression, dominating Mississinewa 3-0 in the second period and holding a 1-0 advantage on Oak Hill with 10 minutes remaining when the first thunder clap was heard. Collin Burman scored a goal in both periods, the latter a penalty kick against the Golden Eagles, while Bryan Popoca and Bryce Dmyszewicz collected goals against Ole Miss.

Burman was the leading goal scorer last year for the Panthers' 13-2 Class 2A sectional championship team and among the most experienced players. A strong senior class graduated, but coach Adam Hallis counts five or six who started at least one match or gained significant experience.

"This is a different group," Hallis said. "With that senior class we lost we had been able to fit pieces around that core that we had built. This is really another talented group, and we just have to figure out where those pieces are, which is what we get to do on days like this.

"But there are also guys who have worked really hard to be competitive and now they get their chance to shine," Hallis added. "Our goals are the same and our expectations are the same, and so far we've worked hard to meet them."

While the beat goes on at Marion and Eastbrook, Eagles coach Joel Garverick said the scrimmage wasn't a true indication of their abilities. Admittedly, they struggled against the Giants but came back with a much better period against the Panthers.

"I thought we were pretty poor in the first game and there were some simple fundamental things we didn't do well that we've worked on, and we need to continue to work on," Garverick said. "We don't have to go back to the drawing board, though, and there were still some good things that we did.

"We made some adjustments between the first and second games and that really showed," he continued. "We only played 20 minutes of the second game, but we know what we need to do, which is encouraging. Even though they had a PK goal we were playing well and starting to figure some things out."

Mississinewa was shorthanded for the scrimmage with key contributors Colin Yoder, Thomas Steelman and Hayden Ulerick, a newcomer, injured or ineligible to play. Coach Jared Reel also held out regular goal tender Cody Nantz against the Panthers, saving him for a fourth period against the Giants that never took place.

Yoder, who led the Indians with 16 goals last year, should return soon from his injury, and Reel anticipates a more competitive team when at full strength. Ole Miss was 5-10-1 last year and has just three seniors on the current team.

"I saw some good things out of our younger kids, that they've improved a little bit," Reel said. "Our midfield is struggling a little bit because of injuries, but our defense didn't play too bad. Eastbrook's got some pretty good strikers and finishers and I wasn't unhappy about the result.

"We've got to do better with our touch and movement and that comes with a little bit more game time," Reel added.

Marion might have underperformed last year in finishing 8-7-2, but Berry said the current Giants have plenty in common with their teams from 2010-17 that won six of eight sectional championships. Key returnees include seniors Kevin Guy, Joseph Powell and Isak Lagerkvist, and Mario Garcia is another senior who has stepped up in the offseason workouts.

Move in Drew Bartrom scored four goals and had 10 assists last year at Muncie Burris, and Oak Hill transfer Zane Smith is a promising freshman. Freshman Alex Powell also has stepped into a starting role. Goalie Malik Smith currently is on the mend from a broken thumb.

"Without question, we're strong in every aspect," Berry said. "Malik Smith is not in goal yet, but he'll be good. Our backs are really strong and our midfield is strong, but we can put 11 soccer players on the field and that makes a big difference.

"We have multiple kids that can score ... and we're just doing a lot of good things collectively," Berry added. "So it's going to be really interesting to see what happens."

Burman scored 13 goals to lead a well-balanced Panthers attack, and three other returning players combined to score four goals. Sam Spiegel scored two goals but has been moved to goalie. Hallis looks for juniors Jake McKim and Elijah Shutt and sophomore Lucas Shilts to assume scoring roles. Seniors Simon Manwell and and Jared Sisson anchor the defense.

"The system we play we need multiple players to rely on," said Hallis, whose team opens Tuesday at home against Wabash. "(Burman) had the most goals last year, but we get to see what other guys can bring, and we need them all to step up."

Oak Hill was 6-9-3 last year but returns junior Gavin Holz who led the team with 15 goals and Dalian Leach who had eight goals. Center back Thommy Seybold is among the Eagles' most important players, and Sam Boyer is an experienced goalie.

"We play Tipton (at home) on Tuesday and I think we'll be ready to go," Garverick said. "It's a situation where we need to maintain focus and execute. When we do that we're capable of being a really good team. But if we don't, as it showed today, we're a not so great team."

Ole Miss opens Tuesday at Peru and Reel knows his team will struggle until everyone is back. Sophomore Holden Brown scored 11 goals last year and senior Noah Drake added four goals and they will be counted on to pick up the offense while Yoder is on the mend.

"I think we'll improve on last season," Reel said. "We've still got some new kids who are learning how to play the game and I see an improvement in our youth program and the skill level is better. We just have to learn how to play the game and everything else will fall in place."