Jacob Butler is in his first year as the boys varsity soccer coach at Lebanon High School, but he is very familiar with the players on the squad.
Butler spent three years as an assistant coach with the girls soccer program and the past three years as the head coach of the boys junior varsity squad. He has also spent the last two years as a goalkeeper coach with Total Futbol Academy in Albany.
“I knew pretty much everybody here before we even started our first day of practice,” Butler said. “It’s been really good just seeing these guys get back together and working.”
As a former keeper himself, Butler is drawn to a hard-working defensive style and expects this squad to fit that definition.
“I want to play like what Lebanon should represent and that’s a grind-it-out, hard-working, blue-collar team. That’s the style I want us to implement as a group. I think if we do that we’ll be all right for the year,” Butler said.
The Warriors are in good shape at keeper with four-year starter Charles Varela filling that role.
“Very, very talented kid. Don’t ever have to worry about his work ethic,” Butler said.
At the same time, the Warriors do bring back some talented attacking players. Last year, Edgar Ibarra and Caleb Christner built good rapport as an attacking duo.
Ibarra is back for his senior season and Christner, a sophomore, has a year of experience under his belt.
“Those two I’ll rely heavily on to create some chances for us this year,” Butler said.
New addition Carlo Pereira, a sophomore, will also be in the mix at the forward position.
“He’s a grind-it-out, scrappy guy that just has a knack for putting the ball in the back of the net,” Butler said.
The Warriors will play a 4-4-2 formation with four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards.
Butler and his staff are still working to determine how they will use Ibarra, Christner and Pereira. The simplest option is a three-player rotation among the two forward spots, keeping everyone fresh.
Another option is to move Christner to a midfield position, using his ability to maintain possession and distribute the ball.
“Especially if guys get tired or injuries happen, then we can certainly move him back and he would have no problem being a midfielder,” Butler said.
After seeing the turnout for the program decline in recent years, the Warriors have 33 players out for soccer this fall. That will allow the team to field full varsity and junior varsity squads.
There are 17 freshman out for boys soccer which is a good sign for coming years.
The Warriors have struggled to be competitive in a talented Mid-Willamette Conference in recent years, but Butler is setting the bar high for this year’s team.
“My goal for this season is for us to make playoffs. We’ve struggled to win games, and I know some people are going to question my goal, is it really realistic? I think it is. I think part of our issue the last few years has been that our goal hasn’t been high enough.” Butler said. “I think with us making a goal of making playoffs, finishing in the top four in league that would be a huge accomplishment for us.”
The Warriors opened their season on Tuesday at home against North Eugene. Lebanon will play Thursday at Springfield and then host Redmond on Tuesday, Sept. 10.