The Cougars — who lost to Stratford 7-0 in the GISA Class AAA finals last year — have picked up where they left off from their runner-up finish with a 4-0 overall and Region 1AAA record going into Friday’s game at Monsignor Donovan Catholic.
The season has been marred only by a number of rainouts — with four of their games being postponed due to inclement weather. As a result, the team faced a schedule of nine games in 16 days as of last Thursday.
After a season-opening 6-2 victory over cross-town rival Weber March 14, Holy Spirit Prep won its next three games by shutout — defeating Loganville Christian 4-0 March 15, the Heritage School 10-0 March 21 and Dominion Christian 9-0 last Wednesday.
The Cougars have been able to maintain their level of success, despite injuries to several players that have prevented them from fielding their usual starting lineup.
“We still haven’t had a game with what I would consider our top 11,” Holy Spirit Prep coach Clayton Schmitt said. “We’ve played pretty well so far.”
Having outscored their opponents 29-2 in four games, the Cougars are strong on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball.
“Overall, we’ve only given up two goals all season, so our backline has been pretty strong most games,” Schmitt said. “We’ve got some older players in the [offensive] attack and real strong goalkeepers. We finish real well.”
Holy Spirit Prep has had a number of holes to fill after losing half of its starting lineup from last year’s state runner-up squad to graduation.
However, Schmitt said that he has had several upperclassmen step up to fill the gaps, along with some promising younger players.
“We graduated a lot of players and we’re just looking to build from within,” Schmitt said. “A couple of ninth-graders will start. But, mostly, 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders will start right now.
Junior goalkeeper Luke Whelan is among Holy Spirit Prep’s mainstays, recording three shutouts in goal in his four games.
Junior forward Liam Carson led the team with eight goals as of last Wednesday, while junior forward/midfielder Chris Torres (six goals, 10 assists) is another top scoring threat.
Senior forward Taye Crumbley also provided some offensive punch for Holy Spirit Prep with four goals in its win over Dominion Christian.
A missing piece of the puzzle for the Cougars is senior defender Andrew Skinner, who has missed the entire regular season as he recovers from a concussion suffered while playing for the school’s basketball team last winter. He is expected to return to the lineup before the end of the campaign.
With Skinner back in the fold, Schmitt is confident that Holy Spirit Prep can repeat its run to the finals of a year ago.
“If [Skinner is] back in there, we should be back in the Final Four and maybe back in the championship game,” Schmitt said. “We’ve got a favorable draw in the playoff bracket and that should help us. I really feel like we’re the top team in the region and one of the top teams in the state, but that Stratford team is so deep. They’re definitely the prohibitive favorite. I think we’re kind of that dark horse that not many people know about. I think we’ll surprise everybody once we get into the playoffs.”