GREENFIELD — Matt McConnell knows it’s still early. But the results have been undeniable.
With 21 goals in three wins this season, Greenfield-Central is scoring at will in an undefeated start. And with 11 different Cougars finding net, McConnell, despite being a first-year head coach, has helped Greenfield-Central find its rhythm on both ends of the field.
Working from the back line of defense through its midfielders and to its forwards, Greenfield-Central — unselfishly — is working like a team that has spent more than just a few months together.
In reality, as a complete team, it’s been less than that.
Most programs would struggle after losing its leading scorer. Add in a new coach and several fresh faces? The beginning isn’t supposed to be this easy.
McConnell, a longtime Cougars assistant, was hired as the team’s head man in July and was immediately given the task of replacing Enrique Ferrara, who scored 18 goals last season. Rather than have one player in this fight, McConnell has a gang.
“Really it boils down to unselfish play,” McConnell said. “We are trying a lot of new things, asking guys to play in ways we haven’t asked before and at each turn they have responded very well.”
Out of the 12 players registering minutes for Greenfield-Central, which finished 9-6-2 last season, all but one has scored at least a goal. Seven more have registered an assist, as well.
Senior Luke Tuttle and junior Braiden Sticka have been the driving forces behind this well-oiled offensive machine. Sticka leads the team with five goals and four assists while Tuttle has three goals and two helpers of his own.
Both Tuttle and Sticka, during the summer months, play for the club FC Pride.
“He has really filled his role well,” McConnell said of Sticka. “Our boys play for each other. One game it’s Braiden’s turn to shine and the next may be someone else’s night. Braiden and the rest of the team are constantly doing what it takes to set each other up for success.
“For instance, Braiden’s five goals are marked by four assists. As coaches, assists are a better way for us to gauge where a player is and ultimately where our team is.”
Sticka said he worked on becoming more aggressive with the ball this summer. Also, in anticipation of a more balanced attack, Sticka said he worked on becoming more a team player, including some of his decisions made on the field.
“To me, I believe I am not trying to be the main man,” he said. “I’ve tried to get the assist as much as I have the goals this year. With our team working together, we have been able to achieve our goals.”
Tuttle has certainly been in the offensive mix, as well. His big game came in a 7-0 win against Irvington Prep, when he scored two goals and added an assist. He said having defenders who have played together before has been beneficial to this year’s squad. The attack builds from the back and eventually reaches the front.
“Our defense has made giant contributions to the offense,” Tuttle said. “They have held a shutout through three games. Being able to trust the guys in the back helps us transition into the offense smoothly. Our guys have played back there for years, so the chemistry comes easy.”
Juniors Cole Pierce and Sean Julian anchor the Cougars defense as does classmate Brandon Murphy. In goal, junior Noah Hughes has logged to most minutes and has six saves on seven shots on goal and has earned the three aforementioned shutouts.
Also finishing 5-2 in the Hoosier Heritage Conference last season, Greenfield-Central has its eyes on the prize this year.
And McConnell and company will hope to make a statement against Mt. Vernon on Sept. 8. The Cougars will then play at New Palestine on Sept. 15.
The Marauders are currently 2-0 in the HHC while the Dragons are 1-0. Greenfield-Central’s first conference contest, which was scheduled for Tuesday against Pendleton Heights, was cancelled due to poor weather.
But Tuttle and Sticka haven’t been the only consistent players thus far. Also helping the Cougars score goals has been senior Trenton Pierce (three goals), freshman Zach Bell (three goals), freshman Trevor Sawyer (one goal and one assist) and junior Clay Kelley (one goal and two assist). Julian has two assists, as well, while freshman Caleb Mundell has a goal and two assists.
“The offense is clicking on the same page right now,” Tuttle said.
Greenfield-Central boys soccer
-21 goals scored
-7 goals per game
-4.3 assists per game
-11 different players with at least a goal
-7 different players with an assist
-Junior Braiden Sticka (five goals and four assists)
-Senior Luke Tuttle (three goals and two assists)