There's a strong - if still young - tradition of playoff teams in boys' soccer at Jay M. Robinson. If it's extended this year, a talented group of sophomores will play a big part.
"We're still learning from our mistakes, but we've got a lot more opportunities this season to step up and score goals," said sophomore forward Uriel Rebollar, the team's leading scorer so far with 17 goals and 4 assists.
He has teamed with fellow sophomore Jason Andrejchek (12 goals, 4 assists) to score more than half of the total goals scored by a Bulldog team that lost a big group of seniors last year.
But they're riding that youth movement - six of 11 starters are sophomores - to stay among the contenders in the South Piedmont 3A conference, where they were 14-0 and champions last season.
Digital Access for only $0.99
For the most comprehensive local coverage, subscribe today.
The Bulldogs had an 10-5-4 record (8-2-2 in the conference) going into a big home conference match against Hickory Ridge today.
"The real talent is in the sophomore class this time, and if we can get the supporting cast to step up during the year, they'll be a good group to build on," said head coach Michael Hoke, who has led the program since the school opened in 2000.
In those 10 years, Robinson has made the playoffs in all but the first season. They've won five conference championships while competing both at the 4A and 3A levels. They've reached the third round of the playoffs for the last three seasons.
"We've got a good tradition of competition here," said Hoke. "We have a lot of pride in putting the best team we can out there."
And that feeling is shared by the players.
"There are a lot of alumni of the team out there, and we don't want to let them down," Andrejchek said. "We got to watch this year's seniors last year and we want to contribute this year."
Andrejchek and Rebollar, whose older brother Angel was a scoring standout on last year's team, have combined for 29 of the team's 50 goals (as of Oct. 22).
Other key players include senior captains Andrew Alvarado, a goalkeeper, Michael Dalton, a midfielder, and Zach Larmore, a defender as well as freshman midfielder Tony Avila and sophomore Gabriel Pastrana.
They've put together a solid conference season. The Bulldogs have tied a couple of games in conference against the Spiders and Northwest Cabarrus. Robinson's two league losses came after giving up late leads to Concord (a 3-2 overtime setback) and Hickory Ridge.
"If it weren't for two goals we've let in at the end of games, we'd be leading the conference," Hoke said.
Andrejechek said that's where the current crop of emerging Bulldogs wants to be soon.
"We're going to be bigger, and we'll be even better in a couple of years," he said.