COLUMBUS – It’s all about the team in the boys’ soccer program at Columbus High, and head coach Danny Engel isn’t shy about saying so.
The coach who played the sport at the high school level and as an adult in his native Pearland understands very well what it takes to play soccer at a high level.
With a fairly new program like the one he has at Columbus, Engel has fast-tracked this group of boys in their quest for success the pitch.
Engel and his boys’ soccer team have been at this going on three seasons now and they have some pretty big obstacles to overcome.
First and foremost, Columbus is a Division 3A school that must compete against 4A schools—if it wants to compete at all. That’s just the reality for Engel and his boys.
“The University Interscholastic League doesn’t have a 3A division,” said Engel, “so we play against the bigger schools. It’s tough but it’s what we have to do and we strive to play hard every game and meet the challenge.”
It’s tough enough starting a new program in any field of endeavor.
You’re already at a disadvantage in the experience department. But when you’re also at a disadvantage in the numbers (of students) department, it requires a herculean effort to even get a program off the ground, much less soar, as Engel wants this program to do.
Engel is actually excited about the prospect of making the Cardinals fly high and fly fast, especially since he played the sport himself. “It’s one of the main reasons I wanted to coach soccer and develop a program here in Columbus.”
Engel lost some players from last year’s squad, players who were main cogs in the program last season.
“We have had this program for three years and have had a pretty good balance of players from freshman to seniors,” said Engel. “Last year we lost quite a few seniors. Some freshmen and sophomores have had to step up and fill in.”
Any one of the above ingredients—inexperience, working with a lack of numbers, losing key seniors—would probably break the spirits of a lesser group of athletes and their coach.
When you watch the Cardinal boys take the field for practice, they’re a pretty loose group. This group does not give the impression that they’re wilting under the pressure. That will probably serve this squad well as they continue their venture into the murky waters of Division 4A soccer.
Engel, who also coaches JV defense and varsity defensive backs, is a little uncomfortable when asked to single out key players.
“As far as standouts I would rather not single out a player or two and take away from the team as a whole,” Engel said. “I try to preach that we are one team with one goal, which is to make the playoffs. But most important is to play the game hard and with integrity and the support your teammates on and off the field.”
Engel did throw a few names out there when pressed.
“But I will say we have had some leaders step up into some key positions for us,” he said. “Jairo Martinez is taking charge of the defense and Angel Alvarez Hernandez, Jesus Medina and Chris Lara are leading the team as far as our midfielders go.”
Engel believes there is a great deal of interest for soccer at a school with a relatively new program.
“For a fairly new program we have had a lot of interest in soccer and this is our first year we will have a JV program,” he said. “This is a great thing because it allows a lot of the younger players to build skills and get the experience of what to expect at the varsity level.”
With Engel at the steering wheel, this squad is probably going to be one of the more interesting area soccer programs to watch.
“This year we have a fairly young team,” said Engel. “But they play well together and continue to gel as a group.”