Destin Middle School to field young but talented soccer team
With only two eighth-graders back, Destin Middle School will field a young but talented girls soccer team this season to defend its title.
Last year, the Marlins won the Okaloosa County Championship with a 3-1 victory over Ruckel Middle of Niceville with some strong eighth-graders.
"We lost a lot of eighth-graders ... but we have a ton of sixth- and seventh-graders that play the game well," Coach Demetris Stevens said.
"Youth bodes well for the future, but I'm not going to be looking too far ahead because this team is talented enough that they should have a shot every week to be competitive and win," Stevens added.
The Marlins will get to see just how well they measure up on Monday, Dec. 7, when they host the Ruckel Rams at 6:30 p.m.
For now, however, Stevens said the strength of the team is its "technical ability" on the ball.
"I don't think we've had a starting group that is as good on the ball as this group," he said.
Stevens said he's had a lot of great individual players over the years, but stressed the "technical ability" of this group.
"These girls work really hard on that part of the game," he said.
The Marlins' biggest weakness this year is their youth.
"It takes a lot of experience to know what it feels like to be in those pressure situations ... to be able to perform and know how your body is going to react when it's the championship and you're up a goal or down a goal," he said.
The two eighth-graders returning are Sophie Corey and Sage Caton.
"They've been doing a good job of keeping the younger ones moving along in the program and how we do things," Stevens said.
The Marlins haven't gotten in much practice time with the holiday break.
As for the pandemic and it's role in their practices and play, the team has made a few changes.
"It's affecting how we do things," Stevens said.
"We keep things sanitized and try to keep the kids separated as much as possible. But me coaching outdoor sports, it's a little better because there is more room to spread out," he said.
Another plus for soccer is the players already have their own water bottles, and soccer is played mostly with the feet, not the hands.
Will the players wear masks on the playing field?
Stevens said they haven't practiced with them, but wearing a mask on the playing field would be a "personal decision."
Just last month the Marlins lost a player not to COVID-19, but to a car accident: 12-year-old Isadora Vicente.
"It was very devastating," Stevens said.
He said the team is looking to get a warmup shirt and put her initials on the shoulder in remembrance of Isadora.
The Marlins play a 12-game season with most games played on Mondays and Wednesdays.
Who will be the Marlins toughest opponent?
"Ruckel, always," Stevens said.