Burke, the junior varsity soccer coach, would offer strategies from the sideline during games. Oftentimes, head coach Robert Rhodes would defer to Burke for the post-game speech. Burke always displayed the fiery passion to be a head coach, but his time was likely never to come at Derby.
“It’s definitely something that I always wanted to do, but I didn’t know, with Rhodes being the head coach, if I’d ever get the chance,” Burke said. “I didn’t think he’d ever give it up. I’m definitely going at it full force, everything I got.”
To Burke’s benefit, Rhodes did not leave the cupboard bare. An inexperienced Panther squad trudged to a 7-9-1 finish in 2011, but that same roster is now crowded with veterans.
The Panthers will hum along behind an expert midfield that returns Ark Valley-Chisholm Trail League Division I honorees Jose Vaquera (first team), Chase Sacket (honorable mention) and Julio Vielmas (honorable mention).
“We all play defense. We all play offense. Everybody does the same thing – go hard the whole game,” Vielmas said. “We should be good. We didn’t lose any seniors in the midfield.”
The strikers are fitted with speed. Sophomores Alan Flores and Thome Denesongkham get the call-up to the big leagues after helping the JV team post a 10-4-2 record this past season. Chase Sacket returns, as does Ryan Steven, who missed much of the past season with injuries.
On defense, junior Austin Swindler hopes to rekindle his freshman success after an ACL injury negated his sophomore year. Lake Crawford adds speed in the back. Edgar Vaquera brings experience in goal. Marcus McKee patches it all together as a senior leader.
“We all know each other. We’re pretty solid,” McKee said. “We’re focused on not getting scored on, focused on keeping our shape.”
Burke’s game strategy will be to attack and allow his experienced defense to check opposing stars. He said the team will not play for 1-0 wins or 0-0 ties.
“We are going to try to attack a little bit more – not so defensive-minded,” he said. “We’re going to obviously put the best 11 we can on the field. It doesn’t matter if you’re a freshman, a senior, your first year here or a four-year starter.”
The style has won the approval of the players.
“He’s made it pretty clear that nobody on the team has a starting spot for sure any time, any place,” McKee said. “When we step on the field, it’s all about soccer and nothing else.”
The philosophy has Derby eyeing a double-digit win total and a dark horse run at the league title.
“I think we’ll be at the top,” Steven said. “I think we’ll have a winning season, for sure. We’ll probably get at least 10 wins, no matter what.”
Derby opens the season with a home date against Kapaun Mt. Carmel tonight. League matchups begin Sept. 18 against Campus and wrap up with the home finale against Hutchinson on Oct. 16.