The Bearcats are determined to make consecutive trips to the playoffs and hoping they won’t need to be so one-dimensional this time around.
Last year’s squad advanced on the strength of its stellar defense after a one-year postseason absence. Now Sherman looks to improve its offensive attack with an eye on climbing the district standings and avoid an unfavorable bi-district match-up.
The first step towards putting together that balanced group comes as Sherman opens the season on Thursday in the Georgetown Tournament. The Bearcats face Austin Northeast at 12:40 p.m. and on Friday will play Georgetown at 8 p.m. before taking on Brownwood at 9 a.m. on Saturday.
“I want them to be aggressive. We’re looking for people who can score,” Sherman head coach Chico Aleman said. “I know we have defenders. I know we have midfielders. We have a good group. Defense is our strength. We have that same mentality and go from there.”
Some timely goals allowed the Bearcats to reach the postseason and finish 7-11-7 overall after losing against two-time defending state champ Frisco Wakeland in the first round. The Bearcats were the fourth seed after going 3-5-2 in the 10-5A standings, allowing more than one goal just once in district play to go with three shutouts.
Those shutouts proved to be a common theme for Sherman. The defense produced 10 of them but the offense was held scoreless 13th times — although six of those ended in ties and four others were by 1-0 margins. Even just a slight increase in goals could propel the Bearcats to a winning record if the defense holds up to that standard again this year.
Among those needing to replaced include senior co-captains Joel Nandin and Eric Quiroz, who were both first-team all-district selections. Nandin was one of the team’s leading scorers and Quiroz led the defense. Also needing to be replace on defense is Edgar Ramirez, another first-team all-district pick.
This year’s roster is made up almost entirely of seniors — 18 of the 22 Bearcats are in their final seasons. The only sophomore in the group is midfielder Noel Martinez.
As part of several upperclassmen among the eight returning starters , those ready to contribute once again include second-team all-district pick Elijah Martinez, Michael Valencia, Jose Nandin and Christian Chinchilla.
Also back are Jonathan Manzanales, who was second-team all-district, and Jonathan Alvarez.
Those looking to make more of an impact this season are seniors Gregorio Quintana, Dylan Roberson and Izak Mejia and junior Samuel Sanchez.
“I can trust them and put them in different positions,” Aleman said. “And that’s a good combination of speed and aggressiveness that we can adjust to the games and how they are going.”
There is a battle shaping up for the starting keeper spot after senior Gerald Clark, who was second-team all-district as a sophomore, missed his junior year with a knee injury and Jacob Prado, one of only three juniors on the roster, stepped in at the back of a playoff qualifier and was named second-team all-district.
The plan is for them to split halves at the start of the season and see how things go from there.
“They’re working together right now. They both have an equal amount of strengths,” Aleman said. “I trust both of them. It’s a good competition.”
In addition to competing in the Denison and Pine Tree Tournaments, Sherman will face Frisco Heritage, Denton Braswell and Gainesville in non-district matches before opening 10-5A play on Feb. 4. The Bearcats are once again grouped with Denison, McKinney North, Lovejoy, Princeton and Wylie East. East, the defending district champ, North and Lovejoy joined Sherman as playoff teams last season.
“Lovejoy didn’t lose many people. North didn’t lose many people. The four teams that made the playoffs are going to be good again,” Aleman said. “We have good players, but so does everybody else. It will boil down to who works the hardest and who shows up on the field. We can’t take anything for granted.”