Chase to battle Shelby for SMAC supremacy
At the beginning of the soccer season, Chase coach Greg Deshommes had two main goals for his Trojans, finish .500 or better and make the 2nd round of the playoffs. He may need to adjust those expectations.
Midway through the season, Chase sits atop the SMAC conference with a 7-0 record (7-2-1 overall) and can take control of the league when they host Shelby (7-1, 6-0 SMAC) Monday.
“We have only been playing soccer as a program for six years, so this is one of our biggest games,” said Deshommes. “Shelby has won two of the past four state championships and we are battling them for control of the conference. It’s amazing that we are in this situation right now.”
Pundits have taken notice of the Trojans’ turnaround. Chase is ranked 11th in the latest Maxpreps.com NC 2A poll. Shelby is 20th.
“We pay attention to it because it is great for our program,” said Deshommes. “But that is not our main focus. We are focused on Shelby.”
The Golden Lions provide plenty to focus on. Shelby has outscored opponents 30-9 this season, a fact that concerns Deshommes.
“Shelby is a very strong offensive team,” he said. “They are very strong with their passes and get forward very quickly. They like to get to certain spots and we have to keep them from getting where they like to go. We also have to control the middle of the field.”
The match could come down to Shelby’s offense versus the Chase defense. The Trojans have posted five consecutive shutouts. Deshommes gives much of the credit for the defense to defender Omar Jimenez and goalie Ansoni Jimenez.
“To play 400 minutes without giving up a goal is amazing,” he said. “The entire team has played well, but Omar and Ansoni have been excellent. Omar has been playing up front for three years and did not know he could play defense, but he is so solid in the back.”
When Chase is on offense, they look to get the ball to their young stars up front. Freshmen Preston Walker and Nube Jimenez have terrorized defenses all season, as Chase has outscored the opposition 22-8.
“We are a very balanced offense this year and it hasn’t always been that way,” said Deshommes. “Last year, if Jose Vasquez didn’t have a good game, we did not play well. This year, he has some help, and can distribute the ball to other players. If they take away Preston, Nube can score. If they take away Nube, Preston or Devin Davis can score. We have several threats. That’s why we are a better team.”
While Deshommes hopes those offensive threats can carry the Trojans to a win, he admits a loss would not be devastating.
“We want to win, but even if we lose, we are still on pace to reach our goals,” he said. “A loss would not be the end of the world because we play Shelby again in a few weeks.”
Even so, Chase wants to take advantage of the home field in this match.
“I want the stadium to be full,” said Deshommes. “It is going to be a great match between the big school in Shelby and little Chase. It’s going to be special.”
Kickoff is set for 5:30 p.m.