San Juan boys soccer opens delayed season

by Rhett Sifford
Sports Editor
The San Juan High School boys soccer team’s season is underway, but it didn’t happen without some extra effort. Their season opener, initially scheduled for March 6 against Parowan, was postponed due to a snow-covered field.
In the first official game of the season the Broncos traveled to Monroe on March 9 to take on the South Sevier Rams, suffering a tough, hard-fought 2-1 loss.
Junior Parkar Sopena scored the lone goal for San Juan and sophomore goalkeeper Javin Montella stopped 12 South Sevier shots.
The Broncos did get that game in with Parowan this past Friday, March 17 in Blanding. The Rams scored two goals in the first half and one in the second to down San Juan 3-0.
San Juan Head Coach Jay Jones, who is beginning his sixth year, responded to several of my questions recently via email. Here’s what he had to say in a slightly tardy preseason interview.
Rhett Sifford: How has it been going these last few weeks trying to get the team ready to begin the season in not-so-desirable conditions?
Coach Jones: It has been a challenge to work with the students to get them ready with all the snow and moisture that we have received in the last few months. We have found ways of practicing indoors and on our field in the snow to prepare ourselves though.
Sifford: Tell me about your team this season.
Jones: This is our third varsity year and these student athletes are getting better each year. We have improved on our ball control, communication, and understanding of the game. The players are working hard at understanding how to really work as a team.
We have ten seniors this year so it helps to have many players who have been participating longer showing their experience. We had our first game on March 9 against South Sevier. We scored first with Parkar Sopena getting a header into the goal.
We then led 1-0 for the next 60 minutes of the game. With about ten minutes left, South Sevier made a great shot and scored. About four minutes later they scored again and we ended up losing 2-1.
The players recognized how they let the other team come back and are working to prevent that from happening in the coming games.
Sifford: Who are your leaders / veterans this season?
Jones: Many of the seniors have already stepped up into leadership whether or not they were voted captains. Dakota Long, Edward Lyman, and Ashton Jones were selected as captains and have worked to help lead their teammates as they all work to improve.
Sifford: Has anyone made big strides or improved greatly since last season?
Jones: I would say the team as a whole has really improved. You can tell when they come back who has put in the time in the offseason to better themselves.
Sifford: What’s the feeling you get from your players as you get set to start the year?
Jones: They are hungry to get some wins and compete and they have impressed us coaches. We have really had to be strong mentally as we haven’t won a lot of games [in the first two years] of the program.
Sifford: What do you think your strengths are this season?
Jones: We have more talent than we have had in the past and the players are getting more confident in their skills.
Sifford: What areas of the game pose the most challenges for you?
Jones: Getting shots on goal has always been a weakness for us but this year we might finally be breaking through this roadblock. Many of our players have been practicing scoring and having the confidence to take shots.
Sifford: What do you know about your opposition this year?
Jones: They are teams that have been good for many years. Playing them has helped us see where we need to improve and focus. Gunnison is one of the better teams in the state and we will be working to really compete with them and give all we can to play the best we can.
Sifford: What goals do you have in 2023?
Jones: Our goal is improvement. We always want to win, but as we tell our team, we need to control what we can control. We can’t control how good or bad the other teams are. We are focusing on control, communication, confidence, and building each other up. If we can do these, the wins will start to come. The athletes have really bought into this and you can see it as we are working to improve each day.
Sifford: Tell me about the coaches who are helping you out this year.
Jones: Courtney Hurst and Jared Brown are returning this year as assistant coaches. Nidia Jones, who helped coach the girls team last year, has joined us as well. I am very thankful to have their support.
San Juan was scheduled to host the 1-2 Millard Eagles on Tuesday, March 21 but with more snow falling in San Juan County that game has been postponed.
The Broncos won’t play at home again until April 6 when Diamond Ranch comes to Blanding. In the meantime, they’ll travel to Parowan to rematch the Rams this Thursday, March 23.
They’ll face the rival Grand County Red Devils next Tuesday, March 28 in Moab, travel to Riverdale to take on Utah Military Academy - Hill Field on March 30, and play in Gunnison on April 4.

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