El Dorado hosts Hot Springs Lakeside today in, what could be, a key league matchup for the boys. The Wildcats are 6-3-1 overall and 5-2 in conference. The Rams are 8-5, 6-1.
“We are playing to hop into a tie for second place in conference. If we beat Lakeside, we’ll be tied with them and Hot Springs,” said El Dorado coach Hunter South. “I’m excited. We managed to get a good win against Benton last Friday. We’re their only conference loss so far so it kind of helped solidify us into one of the top four spots. Now, we’re just trying to get a higher seed for state.”
El Dorado is currently soaring with a four-game winning streak. The Wildcats have outscored the last four opponents 17-2 with three consecutive shutouts.
South, in his first year at the helm, said his team is playing at a peak level at the moment.
“I think we are, actually. We started the year off - brand new coach, my first year with the team – it takes some getting used to from both sides. I had to learn about the team. They had to learn about me. But, I think we’ve come together really well as a group,” he said. “We started off pretty slow. We had that one big loss against Hot Springs where we lost 7-0. We got scored on in the first minutes and we put our heads down. We’ve gotten past that. We played Texarkana a couple weeks ago and we were down 2-1 at the half. We came back and fired back on them in the second half and beat ‘em 4-2. I think we’re really clicking right now.
“We have one injury at our outside back. (Cole Watson) is probably going to be out the rest of the year with a torn ACL. We have some good kids that are going to hop into his place and help him out. With how we’re playing right now and our momentum, I don’t think we should have a problem winning. It will be a tough game, regardless, but I have no doubt in my mind we can pull it out.”
Texarkana was the last time El Dorado surrendered a goal, which brings the number of consecutive scoreless halves to seven.
But, South won’t go so far as saying defense is the primary reason for his team’s success.
“Honestly, I can’t really say it’s strictly defense or strictly offense. I really think it has to do with our team is finally learning that communication in soccer, just like any other sport, communication is key,” he said. “If you don’t talk on the field, you can’t play together as a team. Our defense is very compact. They’re starting to talk really well. They work really well as a unit. Also, what helps is they communicate with the midfield and the midfield drops back so we always have at least eight or nine behind the ball on defense. I think defense is a key. But, I also think offensively, our movement off the ball is getting a lot better. We’re spreading teams out and that’s how we’re running some teams ragged, right now.”