PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WMBB) – This time last year, the Arnold boys soccer team was 7-0-2, and the reigning state champions aren’t starting out this year much different.
The Marlins are 8-0-1, and not only are the records similar, but the goal for this season is the same as the last.
“I think our goal is to prove we are just as good as last year to stay on top and do it all again,” Arnold soccer player Ben Lebdaoui said.
Even though the goals and undefeated status are the same between the two teams, their style of play is different.
“Last year’s team we were able to play a certain way and dominate the field no matter who we played against, but this year we lost a lot of key players so we have to kinda the way we play a lot of games the formation, the style what we’ve got to do and our team has been able to really adapt to play against harder teams in different ways and come out with wins,” Lebdaoui said.
That style is working for them as they have been outscoring their opponents 46-4.
Almost half of those goals coming from senior Braden Masker, who has had 18 so far this season and averaging two per game.
“He’s stepped up big for us, but we have other guys that can score. That’s the thing, they think we can shut Braden down and then someone else steps up. That’s what I love about this team, it was the same as last year’s team so you can’t just stop one of us cause somebody else will pick up,” head coach Jonah Hammond said.
Arnold has a matchup with Niceville on Thursday and then will have a little break before getting on the road at the end of the month.
The team is heading to Mississippi to play Ocean Spring and Gulfport and test their skills against teams they haven’t seen before.
“I’m thrilled, we usually never travel that far and it’s a first for our team and it’s gonna really get us out there and be known. They see our record from last year 25-0-2 and they’re not happy about that we have a huge target on our back and we’re gonna go there and show out,” Marlins player Quintin Hotop said.
Coach Hammond said if the team was able to have back to back undefeated seasons and state titles, they could be the first soccer team in the state to do so.