Deraway taking over Badger soccer program

When the Badger Braves boys soccer team stepped onto the field for the Canfield Cardinal Classic last Saturday, gone was the familiar sight of Karl Martin on the touchline, where he commanded the Braves for 12 years.

Instead, former Badger fullback Justin Deraway took to the sideline to start his reign as the head coach of the Braves, one of the better small-school soccer programs in the area. For Deraway, his first summer in charge of the program has been a smooth one, thanks in large part to help from various sources.

“Karl gave me a lot of good advice,” Deraway said. “The school board and administration’s really been helpful. All the other coaches in the area have really done a good job of making me feel welcome and giving me pointers, helping me along the way. So, it’s been a pretty easy transition for us.”

Part of the reason for the smooth transition comes from Deraway’s time serving under Martin as an assistant in charge of the junior varsity team for five years.

Deraway took advantage of that time by learning from the two-time regional semifinalist coach over those five years, peppering Martin with questions as he learned the coaching trade.

Considering the Braves’ success under Martin, especially from 2004 to 2012, Deraway couldn’t have learned from many better coaches in the area. Badger never recorded less than 10 wins over that span and made back-to-back trips to the regional semifinals in 2007 and 2008, where they lost both times to Hawken, 6-0 and 5-0.

In terms of individual success, the Braves have had five Division III All-Ohio players since 2005. Lee Matson earned a third-team selection (2005) and a first-team selection (2007), Sam Miller a first-team selection (2008), Marcus Heath a second-team selection (2008), Troy Elsea a first-team selection (2010) and Ben Meardith a second-team selection (2012).

“As a JV coach, I watched him progress, and I think that he learned a lot and was very helpful to me as an assistant on the varsity level,” Martin said. “He’s a real student of the game. He made sure that he was very observant, and he was always asking questions, always wanted to know more about anything – tactics, how we prepare for the season, anything he could.”

After the 2012 season, though, Martin stepped down after being involved with the Badger soccer program for over 20 years, citing the desire to spend more time with his grandchildren, who live a good distance away and are starting to reach an age at which they can start playing the game.

Now it’s time for Deraway to put into practice what Martin taught him. Martin said that one of the biggest pieces of advice he gave Deraway dealt with preparation.

“The biggest thing I emphasized with him is being prepared,” Martin said. “If you can be prepared, you’ve got a big chunk of the battle already won because once the guys go out between the lines, as a soccer coach, you really don’t do too much. They make their own decisions out there. So, if you can get them prepared to make the decisions on the field, you’ve done your job.”

Deraway took away another bit of wisdom from Martin, saying that Martin told him to do things his way and not what others told him, and Deraway always has an idea on that end.

The first-year head coach wants the Braves to employ a more possesion-based style of play, as he has admired teams that use such a style.

“I really want them to play a possession-based attack,” Deraway said. “Counterattack when we can, but really control the ball, make sure we’re keeping our heads up playing the ball into the correct positions. That’s the style I always liked to watch, and these guys have taken to it pretty quick. They’ve done a really nice job with it so far.”

While the Cardinal Classic marked Deraway’s first chance to see his team in a scrimmage, his first match in charge of the varsity team will not be easy, as Warren G. Harding will travel to Kinsman on Aug. 17 for a 10 a.m. start.

Badger has a few big holes to fill on the team, with leading scorer Taylor Matson and midfielder Meardith graduated, but the team does return goalkeeper Jarek Meikle, who collected 80 saves last season and should help stabilize the defense.

Despite these losses, the old coach Martin said he believes Badger has a good chance to pick up the win.

“I think (the grass field) neutralizes their speed a little bit because that’s certainly one of their big weapons – the quickness they have, not only up front but through the midfield and even on defense,” Martin said. “Playing on grass will slow that down a little bit, and it’s tough to win on the road.

“We lost our top scorer, we lost some people on defense and we lost our best midfielder. To replace those guys is going to be tough, but if he can find capable people to fill in those slots, sure, they can win that game.”