By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
When Kyle Kent arrived in Oak Hill in 2012, he was a young, first-year soccer coach. And if you ask him, it showed.
“I think one of the things that was tough for me was calling out individual players who were making mistakes,” Kent said. “I was a little too worried about pleasing everyone.”
The Red Devils started the season struggling, going 1-6 early in their campaign. But then something clicked.
“About halfway through the season, I decided I was going to let them know — and let the whole world know — if they did something wrong,” Kent added.
The rest was history.
“When we played Huntington St. Joe, we started to click,” he said. “That was where they started to click and score more goals.”
Oak Hill defeated St. Joe 3-1. It would start a winning streak that would see the Red Devils win seven of their next eight games.
It’s that same success Kent hopes to build on during the 2013 season.
“I’ve got eight returning seniors this year that all deserve mention,” Kent said. “We certainly like to play a possession style game and frustrate the opponent.”
Helping the Red Devils this year will be all-state central midfielder Jacob Kemlock and returning goalkeeper Brett Garris.
“Jacob is a four year varsity player and he’s going to be a big player for us this season,” Kent said. “And Brett is a wonderful goalkeeper. Both players are going to be very strong for us.”
Kent also singled out senior defenders Cameron Heath and Grant Whitmore.
“They’re solid defenders,” Kent said. “Them and my entire defensive backline. I’m hoping for a lot from those guys.”
Kent is also hoping for a lot from himself.
The 27-year-old coach has an extensive soccer background and experience he’s hoping to use to motivate his squad.
“I grew up playing travel league football out of Syracuse (New York) and at the age of 9 I was flying to Michigan and Kansas City for indoor nationals,” Kent said.
It was with the famed travel squad, Syracuse Blitz that his coaching ways began to form, especially from Brazilian Bob Escobar, who trained Kent from the age of 9.
“I saved a lot of those philosophies,” Kent said.
Now Kent is taking those philosophies and meshing them with some new ones to become his own man.
“That was something I took away from it,” Kent said. “I’m a younger coach, and a lot of players will come up to me with ideas. I just have to remind them that ‘you play, I coach’ and be a little bit more firm with them.”
He’s really looking forward to key matches with area foes Princeton and Woodrow Wilson this season. All battles last year between Oak Hill and the Tigers and Flying Eagles were decided by a single goal.
“Those two teams are well coached,” he said. “Princeton is a very respectful team. I look forward to playing a team with good sportsmanship.”
Before the Red Devils can test themselves against their two rivals, they’ll have to get through defending Class-AAA state champion Hurricane on August 21.
The Redskins haven’t lost a match since 2011.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.