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Coach Bryan Housley stressing better sportsmanship and chemistry and the team is improving

PMG PHOTO BY LON AUSTIN - Eli Oakers, 7, readies to launch a shot during the soccer jamboree Friday against Ridgeview.The Crook County High School boys soccer team may be turning a corner.

Under the leadership of second-year head coach Bryan Housley, the team has the largest turnout of players in years, as well as looking very competitive.

When Housely took over the program a year ago, his biggest goal was to change the culture of Crook County soccer. In previous years, the team had experienced some poor sportsmanship during matches as well as player absenteeism from practice. As a result of some of the changes, there are players with varsity experience that so far are not out for soccer this year.

"We have 35 out for soccer with more expected to show up once school starts September 7," Housley said. "15 freshmen is considered the largest class out for soccer in over 10 years and is a testament to the changing culture and landscape of soccer in Crook County."

Despite the good numbers, the Cowboys are going to be young. Not only are there 15 freshmen currently in the program, there are just four seniors and two juniors currently on the roster.

Still, despite the youth and inexperience, Housley believes that the team is going to be competitive.

"We are definitely on the right track," he said after last Tuesday's jamboree at Caldera High School.

The Cowboys lost all three 20-minute matches at the jamboree, but were still competitive. In addition, the Cowboys showed an unselfish attitude and good team play throughout the competition.

The Cowboys opened the jamboree with a tough 1-0 loss to Mountain View. The lone goal came on a header following a corner kick midway through the 20-minute period. In their second match, the Cowboys played to a 0-0 tie with Caldera. In that match, Crook County had several scoring opportunities, but were unable to put the ball in the back of the net, despite outplaying the Wolfpack most of the way.

PMG PHOTO BY LON AUSTIN - Codey Ortiz, 3, plays the ball in Friday's event.Crook County struggled in their final match of the day, falling 5-1 to what Housley described as a fast and disciplined Ridgeview Raven team. Still, even in that match, there were positives as the Cowboys were finally able to put the ball in the net with sophomore Eli Oelkers scoring off a corner kick by senior Cody Knudtson.

Housley said that he was pleased with the effort he saw from his team during the jamboree, including the play of freshman goalkeeper Isaac Ritter.

"Ritter was the day's bright spot as he solidified his future as Crook County's net minder for the season and beyond," Housley said.

In addition to Knudston, the Cowboys remaining seniors are Hayden Shaw, Giovani Vargas and Brian Guzman. The team's juniors are Adam and Codey Ortiz, while sophomores Russell Rodgers, Oelkers, Gabe Love and Eddie Ruiz Ortiz, along with freshmen Gabriel Lopez and Jace Jonas, all figure to play prominently in the team's success.

The Cowboys opened the regular season on Monday with a home match against Westside Christian. Following Monday's match, Crook County does not play again until Thursday, Sept. 8 when they go on the road to take on the Sisters Outlaws in a 4 p.m. contest.

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