Last fall, the Lejeune High School boys’ soccer team finished the season as one of the four best 1A teams in North Carolina, despite coming up just short in the semifinals of the state playoffs.
This season, head coach Charles Teegarden understands he has a new team after graduating four seniors and losing several other players to offseason moves. Though the Devil Pups will have a new look compared to last season, they still have six returning players who Teegarden said will be the team’s strength.
The team’s captains, all returning players from a year ago, are senior Antonio Barrios, juniors Marcus Cooper and Karl Benson and sophomore Robbie Morgan. According to Teegarden, those four players will be the team’s core this season, along with sophomores Peter Sullivan and Matthew Day, both returning players from last season’s team.
Lejeune will rely on the experience of their returning players to carry the load early and often this season, but Teegarden has faith that the newcomers will step up and contribute in time.
“[The returning players] know what is expected of them,” Teegarden said. “They know what it takes. They know what they have to do. Those around them will have to fill in and do their job, and we will find some success.”
The Devil Pups, who have 10 underclassmen on their roster of 16 total players, will hope to see some leadership from senior Raymond Feliciano as well. The younger players, like sophomore goalkeeper Zacharia Johnson, will also need to mature quickly if Lejeune plans on making another deep playoff run this fall.
“We just have to get our younger players to understand their responsibilities,” Teegarden said. “Once they are comfortable and know what they have to do, they will fill in and they will support those players.”
Despite having a small team in terms of numbers, Teegarden likes what he has seen from his players, even though they have only been able to play six-on-six in practice.
“They enjoy themselves,” Teegarden said. “They really bond well. They are working hard and things are starting to show. The more they listen, expectations heighten and they start doing the things that they are supposed to be doing.”
This season will be a work-in-progress for Lejeune, but if the team gels well together and the young players are able to make an impact, the Devil Pups could earn one of the East Region’s top seeds again come playoff time.
LHS boys’ soccer players not mentioned in this article are Thomas Costello, Jordan Dooley, Alex Manzanet, Gabriel Ostroha, Seth Smith, Victor Solis, Felix Victore, Matthew Olivo and Tyler Johnson.
Lejeune’s assistant coach is Samantha Kay. The team’s managers are Kaitlyn Day, Lu Le and Savannah Gomez.
LHS boys' soccer schedule:
Sept. 16 vs. Croatan
Sept. 19 vs. Southside
Sept. 23 vs. Southwest
Sept. 25 vs. Richlands
Sept. 26 vs. Northside
Oct. 2 vs. East Carteret
Oct. 14 vs. Dixon
Oct. 23 vs. Trask
Oct. 30 vs. Pender
Sept. 3 @ Northside
Sept. 5 @ North Duplin
Sept. 12 @ South Lenoir
Sept. 18 @ Dixon
Sept. 30 @ Trask
Oct. 7 @ Pender
Oct. 9 @ Croatan
Oct. 16 @ Southwest
Oct. 21 @ Richlands
Oct. 24 @ Southside
Oct. 28 @ East Carteret
*All games begin at 6 p.m.