King of the Jungle: Soccer Cats Prowl - TribPapers
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King of the Jungle: Soccer Cats Prowl

Cooper King of Hendersonville already has 31 goals heading into this week.

Hendersonville – Hendersonville Bearcats are as dominant in soccer as they are in football and basketball these days.

The “Soccer Cats” are pacing Mountain Foothills teams with an 14-1-1 start to the season. HHS is 9-0 in MFC play. “Way to dominate!” was head coach Stu Scott’s opening praise to his team after shutting out Polk County 7-0 last week. “You guys took over” by scoring five times in the second half. HHS next chased away Chase 4-0.

The Bearcats blanked their last seven opponents, and 12 of 16 overall with 6-foot-4 junior Noah Pavao in the net. Quick-reacting Pavao allowed merely one total goal (in an 8-1 win at Polk Sept. 15) in the first nine MFC contests. HHS won by at least four goals, other than 3-0 over second-place Morganton Patton (10-3-1; 6-2 MFC) Oct. 4.

The Bearcats’ average score is 4.4-1.5, including an amazing 6.0-0.1 in league games. The Bearcats scored at least six goals in two of the last three games heading into the clash this past Monday against East Rutherford (6-3 MFC).

People can see HHS versus Brevard at home Monday, Oct. 25 at 6 p.m. HHS concludes the regular season two days later at Patton.

The HHS record’s only blemishes are a 2-0 loss at North Henderson Aug. 25, and a 3-3 tie with area 4-A power A.C. Reynolds two days later. ACR (12-3-2; 7-9 MAC) trails only T.C. Roberson (13-2-1; 9-0) in the MAC. The other teams to score on HHS are local rivals. HHS beat West Henderson 5-2 in the opener Aug. 16 and won 3-1 at East Henderson Sept. 17.

Scoring Onslaught

The Bearcat offense lit up the scoreboard in a three-game stretch in mid-September to start the MFC sub-season. HHS scored nine, eight then nine goals while yielding merely one goal total against R-S Central, Polk then Chase. Those 26 goals in three games is likely a team record.

Cooper King scored four goals in each of those three games. King then scored three of the team’s four goals — to total a likely HHS record of 15 goals in four straight contests.

King, a swift 6-2 junior striker-forward, has a conference-leading 31 goals. Number six averages two goals per game. “I work hard to get to the ball. I run as hard as I can,” he said. He already doubled his output of 15 goals as a sophomore in the abbreviated 2020-21 season early in this year.

King’s slickest goal was against travel team teammate Sean Green, Reynolds’ star keeper, on Aug. 27. King dribbled in. Green came out far to try to take the ball away at the 15-yard line. They collided. Lefty King fended off Green with his right foot. Green tumbled down. King juked to his left to fool a defender to get an open shot, then promptly blasted in the goal.

King is no ball hog. He leads HHS with 13 assists. He raced past three ACR Rockets to the ball then crossed the ball to Nick Hampton in front of the net. Hampton slid the ball in for his second goal of the night and to secure the tie.

King scored against Polk last week on a pass from Liam Scott. King charged in, dodged to his left as goalkeeper Greyson Ball prematurely dove to the ground, then boomed the shot across and into the vacated net.

King shines on Friday nights as the strong-legged football placekicker for first-place HHS (6-1, 3-0 MFC).

King’s scoring barrage harkens to Brayan Aguirre leading back-to-back state champion Bearcats in 2009 and 2010. Aguirre scored 156 goals in four years.

The supporting cast then as now propelled success. King deflects focus on his own scoring. “We’re all good threats on goal. Everyone can deliver a goal for us,” King told the Tribune.

Several Standouts

Several other Bearcats are supplying key goals and assists. Senior Hampton and sophomore Harrison Moss each scored eight goals to average a goal in every other game. Moss and Keith Bargar led HHS with two goals each against Polk last week. Moss scored two minutes into the game, and opened second-half scoring with a one-timer off of Hampton’s pass. Gabe Rollins ignited the play by feeding Hampton deep to the right side of the goal. Hampton made 11 assists and Moss eight.

“We’re playing well as a team,” Moss said. His sister Ava is reigning Homecoming Queen. Their elder brother Jack was a recent soccer scoring star. Their father Derek Moss is the assistant coach.

Perpetually-hustling senior Anthony Hernandez scored six goals. Seniors Matt Canning and lanky Jude Webster each scored four. Senior Bargar and sophomore Israel Convento each have three goals. Sophomore defender Gabe Rollins scored twice. Senior Liam Scott and freshman Sam Kowalak each found the back of the net once.

Two goals against Polk last week were booming long shots. Bargar’s 25-yarder bounced off of GK Ball’s out-stretched hands. Defender Rollins’ 35-yarder apparently fooled immobile Ball, a former Bearcat, into thinking it would sail high. It curled down and in.

‘Turn, Turn, Turn!’

King said “we have so much chemistry. We have even more of a positive attitude” than last season.

Canning, a defender, typically follows Coach Scott’s post-game pep talk with a fiery one of his own. On-field communication is improving to help teammates know what is happening behind them out of sight, Canning noted to the Tribune.

He explained “Man!” means to pass back since a defender (“manning”/guarding) is closing in. “Turn!” means there is space behind the ball handler, to turn there to keep dribbling.

Whereas many squads keep feeding their leading scorer, HHS spread passes around with patience and precision passing. Players stay spread out. Yet a few go near the ball handler so passes are short. Coach Scott said the win over Polk reflected how HHS plays “strongly from the back on. Moving the ball side to side, then up the middle to change the point of attack.” Scott praised his players’ “read and react” decisions.

King said, “We all work so well together. We make sure we don’t force it downfield” – as Polk does.

HHS was 9-3 last season, reaching round two of playoffs. As King said, “we plan on making it very far in playoffs.”

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