Troy Athens senior captain Jack Musto handles the ball during a recent practice. Musto is a part of a strong leadership core for the Red Hawks this season.

Troy Athens senior captain Jack Musto handles the ball during a recent practice. Musto is a part of a strong leadership core for the Red Hawks this season.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Athens boys soccer working toward another state title

By: Jacob Herbert | Troy Times | Published October 6, 2020

 Junior goaltender Matt Gawthrop attempts to make a save at a recent practice. At press time, the Red Hawks were 8-1-2 overall.

Junior goaltender Matt Gawthrop attempts to make a save at a recent practice. At press time, the Red Hawks were 8-1-2 overall.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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TROY — It’s no secret that the Troy Athens boys soccer program is a storied one full of accomplishments. Since 1981, the Red Hawks have earned 17 league titles, 18 district championships, 11 regional championships, two state runner-ups and six state titles.

The program captured its sixth state title last season when the Red Hawks beat Traverse City West 4-1 in overtime.

During his time as Athens coach, Todd Heugh has learned a thing or two about what it takes to have a successful playoff run.

“You have to be good, you have to be healthy and you have to be lucky,” Heugh said. “Those three things have to happen. You can get one bad bounce in a single elimination tournament or one questionable call and your season is over and you don’t get a chance to fix it.”

At press time, the Red Hawks were 8-1-2 overall. Heugh said it took some time for his team to get used to all the different safety protocols sent down by the Michigan High School Athletic Association, but now he’s seeing improvement out of his team every time they take the field.

“We’re always asking our teams to be better than they were before,” Heugh said. “I’ve been pleased. We’re a mix of some experience and a lot of new guys like we always are here. We have a nice balance and it’s been good. We’re just trying to get everybody to mesh a little bit.”

Senior captains TJ Renaud, Zach Hanoosh, Anthony Kapala and Jack Musto lead the team in their own unique ways.

Leadership was a strong suit of the team last year. The Red Hawks graduated 14 players from last year’s team and are navigating this year with a younger group. Kapala said he learned a lot from last year and is now implementing it into this season.

“Last year, the leaders were kind of just model players,” Kapala said. “They really led by example and that’s what we’re trying to do this year.”

As the season continues, Heugh wants to see his team improve on its team defense. The coach said the team lost a lot of its defensive experience last season and he wants to see the offense and midfield tighten up so as to not put so much pressure on the defense.

When asked whether or not he believes his team has what it takes to reach another state final, Heugh said that’s always the expectation for his team. The coach believes every one of his teams has what it takes to go the distance.

The Red Hawks lost a lot of talent from the state championship team, but some top players have joined varsity from a successful junior varsity squad. The team also has a solid leadership core it can lean on and a goaltender in junior Matt Gawthrop who has only allowed eight goals in 10 games, and never more than two goals in any game.

“There are some good pieces on this team,” Heugh said. “We have the ability to score goals and we’re good at the goal. I think by the time we get to the tournament we’ll be ready for whatever comes our way. We arguably play in one of the toughest leagues (Oakland Activities Association Red Division) in the state. We’ll have as good a shot as anybody.”

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