Mineral Ridge boys pursue district title

MINERAL RIDGE — The Mineral Ridge boys socccer team has been one of the more successful programs in the area over the last few years, and this year is no different. The Rams will look to better their 2017 trip to the district final, as they begin the Division III Warren District as the number one seed.

“We were district finalists last year, so we kind of had a target on our back before the season even started,” Mineral Ridge coach Ted Gaydosh said. “There is a pressure and the expectation of trying to duplicate what you did the previous year. You are missing certain players. Kids graduate and move on, and new kids come in.

“You ask different players to step into different positions, and take a different role with the team. At the same standpoint they are all thinking about what they were able to achieve last year, and they all have the same hopes and dreams of trying to achieve the same, if not better than what we did last year.”

Eight returning starters have helped Mineral Ridge put together another successful season at 12-2 with one game remaining. The Rams begin tournament play on Oct. 20 at 3 p.m. at home against LaBrae or Rootstown.

The leader of the group of returning starters is senior midfielder TJ Gaydosh. Gaydosh was a 2017 all-State pick, and an all-District firstteamer, as well as a 2016 all-District second-teamer.

“He had a tough season, and struggled with some injury and illness,” coach Gaydosh said. “He is definitely one of the key players within the team. He was an all-State player last year as a junior, and right now I believe he has 21 goals and 9 assists on the season right now.

“He has a very smart soccer mentality, and good technical skills. He is the kind of player that can be a difference maker in a game.”

Additional award winners last year include seniors, Garrett Smith, who was an all-District second team choice in 2017, and All-Trumbull County selection Anthony Testa.

“He (Smith) is a player who was really coming into his own at the end of last season,” Gaydosh said. “He has definitely been building upon that this season.

“Anthony Testa is a defensive midfielder for us, and as a coach, you could not ask for a better player from every aspect of the game. The kid shows up at practice and gives 100 percent, he is focused, and he is motivated. Nothing cracks his shell as far as getting him unnerved. He just stays the course, and he just sticks the game out from start to finish.”

Smith has 16 goals and 10 assists and Testa has four goals and seven assists.

Several other seniors have contributed heavily to the Rams’ successful 2018. Yanik King, Dylan Henning, Ian Bitner, Jacob Carfolo, Mackenzie Lewis, and Darren Brandt were part of a long list of upperclassmen who acted as leaders for the younger players in the program.

“This year in particular, it has been phenomenal from the standpoint of helping develop the next generation of players,” Gaydosh said. “They have really embraced trying to help the younger kids come along. Not just at practice, but on the field. They really want to see Mineral Ridge soccer continue to be a dominant force even when they are gone.”

Advancing may be a bit tough for the Rams when they have a bullseye on their back for being seeded number one. Leadership and experience will look to prove the deciding factor.

“Based on what they have shown me the last few games this season, with dealing with adversity, with some players being out due to injury and illness, the way that they have come together and still been able to do the work and find the victory, they are going to be ready to play,” Gaydosh said.

“They are going to be ready for whatever our opponents have to throw at us. They have their eyes set on a district championship, and beyond. I don’t think that they are going to settle for less. I am expecting very good things.”