By Will LeBlond
Last season was certainly a roller coaster for the Lansing boys soccer team, but there are a few things that never change when it comes to Bobcat soccer.
The unexpected passing of longtime head coach Adam Heck in preseason, followed by recent college graduate and Bobcat alumnus Benji Parkes taking the reins, is widely known in the area. Lansing battled through the circumstances on the way to a Section IV Championship and a berth in the Class C New York State Final Four.
This season Parkes is at the helm from the start and, even though there is a new group on the sidelines, expectations remain high for the Bobcats.
“It’s the motivation to keep the tradition alive and look back on what other teams have done,” said Parkes on the team’s success. “We’re trying to get back to that point and see if we can get back to the New York State Final Four and hopefully be the team to hoist the trophy at the end of the weekend.”
The Bobcats came a few precious moments from being the best in the state last year, losing in heartbreaking fashion to World of Inquiry in the state semifinal round. With a new season underway, Lansing is led this season by a large group of 11 seniors and the taste of defeat last fall is still fresh in their minds.
“That drives the team and it drives the senior class,” said Parkes, on trying to get back to the state Final Four. “The younger kids on the team have really stepped up and try to follow that lead.”
The drive has showed so far on the field, as the Bobcats were ranked at No. 2 in the state by the New York State Sportswriters Association when the first Class C rankings came out. Now, with a 2-1 loss to rival Trumansburg, the Bobcats have fallen back to No. 16 in the state, but they still had a 6-2 record heading into game action on September 22.
For the Bobcats, it’s better to suffer tough losses early in the season, as it wasn’t only the Blue Raiders that knocked them off, but Class A Goshen as well. In the Strong as Heck Tournament in Oneonta to honor Lansing’s former coach, the Bobcats fell 7-2 to Goshen, which could help out down the road in 2017.
“Obviously we would have loved to win, but Goshen is a Class A team and they’re up there with some of the best in Class A,” said Parkes on the game. “It’s just another experience and we look to play the good teams anywhere in the state and we take all the opportunities we can to learn.”
Education for the Bobcats goes past the field this season; Parkes being a recent grad and staying in the area, he has a lot of opportunities to bring in former players to help the players out. With a rich history of Section IV Championships in the past decade, there’s a wealth of knowledge for the current Bobcats to learn from.
“I try to tie in a lot of the alumni,” said Parkes. “They come back and share what they did to prepare themselves and what they wish they could have done better.”
The final few weeks of fall and the Final Four are still a long way away for the Bobcats, as they still have to trudge through a difficult IAC schedule. With a good mix of experience, Lansing knows what it will take to get back to the brightest stage in New York state high school soccer.
“It’s early,” said Parkes. “There’s a process and I think the kids are well aware of that process and they understand what they need to do in order to get back to the level where we want to be at.”
Lansing will be on the road against Groton on September 26, before they return home for three straight games against Moravia (September 28), Whitney Point (October 2) and Dryden (1October 4) for Senior Night.