Craig Harris/Macon County Times Macon County High junior Alex Santos is a returning starter on the defensive back line.

Craig Harris/Macon County Times

Macon County High junior Alex Santos is a returning starter on the defensive back line.

The Macon County High School boys soccer program is looking to enter uncharted territory this spring.

The Tigers have just one goal ... to reach the regional tournament for the first time in the history of the program.

"We want to make it past district play," Macon County sixth-year head coach Jeb Coe said. "We've never been to region. We want to make it there. That's goal No. 1. Once we reach that goal, we'll set goal No. 2. We have to make it to one to get to the next (goal)."

A core of experienced players will help the Tigers attempt to accomplish that.

The most experienced group is in the back line.

"I feel real good about them," Coe said. "There might be one or two mental breakdowns we will have, but as far as capability, they are highly capable.

"You have three captains on the back line in Ryan (Underwood), (Jordan) Powell and Jon (Martinez). They're all three team captains along with Jared (Hill). I would say that as far as talking and communicating with the rest of the team that Jordan would be a leader back there as far as defensive effort and letting his play speak for itself."

Powell is a four-year starter who is expected to start at left center-back. Underwood -- a junior -- is a three-year starter who will start at left back, after starting in the midfield last year.

Martinez -- a junior -- was an all-district selection last season who will play right center-back, and another junior -- Alex Santos -- is expected to start at right back.

Juniors Brady Flores and Isaac Marshall and senior Cameron Wohlgamuth will provide depth at defender.

Senior Clay West is the returning starter at goalkeeper. Marshall will serve as West's back-up.

Hill -- another three-year starter -- is transitioning from center midfielder to right midfielder this season.

"He's a veteran player," Coe said. "He has the highest soccer IQ on the field. It's good to have that kind of player-coach on the field. He trained all summer. He took a group of core guys and took them on himself to train them all summer long. They were all out there every day.

"We're hoping by moving him out of that center midfield position that it frees him up."

The team is hoping that freshman Victor Landaverde serves as the center midfielder.

"He's very talented on the ball and can distribute very well," Coe said of Landaverde. "He also brings a defensive nature to the position that we like.

"We have to have high expectations of his effort. We're going to hold him to high expectations and hope he can meet them."

Sophomore Erick Osorio will serve as the left midfielder. Osorio moved into the starting lineup later in the season a year ago.

Junior Brandon Nunez is also an option in the midfield area.

Mauricio Angulo is a four-year starter at forward.

"I expect a whole lot (from Angulo)," Coe said. "I expect him to score some this year. He had to play in that center attacking position last year. Last year, we experimented some with 4-4-2 (configuration, consisting of four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards). We're sticking with that 4-3-3 this year.

"By putting him on that left side, we're hoping he can expose some people on the left side."

Junior Jose Villanueva is a returning starter at forward, and classmate Holden Shrum started at forward near the end of the season, being named to the District 9-AA All-Tournament Team.

Flores, senior Carlos Hernandez and sophomore Hussein Alhawamda will provide depth at forward.

"Our speed of play has to increase," Coe said. "We have to know what we want to do with the ball before we get the ball. It's recognizing potential (opportunities) on the field. The play might not be there right now, but if we do this, this and this, it will be."

One of Coe's biggest concerns pertains to his team's composure.

"Something I still worry about is not getting rattled," Coe said. "Last year, sometimes I would notice that if it was a big game, we would play nervous. We play much better if we are settled in.

"It's one of those questions to where we'll have to see how the season does for itself."

Coe has seen progress in preseason scrimmages against Pope John Paul II High and Martin Luther King Magnet.

"As far as playing soccer the right way and not being a direct style ... we are able to possess on people," Coe said. "One time, against JPII, we linked up 12 passes in a row. That's huge. They're a private school and are well-coached."

Macon County opened the District 9-AA Tournament a 2-0 victory over fourth-seeded White House Heritage before suffering a 5-0 loss to top-seeded White House in the semifinal round, falling one win short of the regional tournament.

The Tigers ended the season with a 7-7-1 record.

"I expect Beech to be good again," Coe said of the district competition. "I expect Springfield to have talented players again. White House lost a lot from last year, but they'll probably still be very good. White House Heritage will be good. It's a really competitive district.

"We beat Heritage in the district tournament. That's a big step in the right direction. We haven't gotten within three goals of White House ever. We've tied Beech once since I've been the coach. Some of it is psychological. We have to beat these teams. If we can beat one of them, it might knock the door down."

Macon County hosts Goodpasture at 7 p.m. on Thursday. The Tigers open district play on Tuesday with a match at Portland.

Macon County High boys soccer schedule

Date|Location/Opponent|Start time

March 14|vs. Goodpasture|6 p.m.

March 19|at Portland|7 p.m.

March 21|vs. Smith County|6 p.m.

March 26|vs. Beech|7 p.m.

March 29|at Livingston Academy|6:00 p.m.

* April 4|vs. White House|5 p.m.

* April 5|vs. LaVergne|7 p.m.

* April 6|vs. Giles County|Noon

April 9|vs. DeKalb County|6:30 p.m.

April 12|at Merrol Hyde Magnet|7 p.m.

April 16|vs. Springfield|6 p.m.

April 19|vs. White House Heritage|7 p.m.

April 23|vs. Greenbrier|6 p.m.

April 25|at Watertown|6 p.m.

* part of the White House Round Robin Tournament at White House High School