The Humble Wildcats soccer program has been in the basement for far too long. Now, they’re determined to make a real run in their new district, 21-5A. Second year Head Coach Saul Keene has a group with plenty of depth that can break the dry spell and become post-season contenders.
The Wildcats recently competed in the Pearland Tournament and had put themselves in a good position to advance to the final round pending their result against Pasadena Memorial. Although Memorial is known for having a strong attack, their defense hasn’t kept up thus far. Humble tried to take advantage of this by using their 4-2-3-1 formation. Having already received 4 points from a 2-2 draw against Channelview and a 5-0 victory over Marshall, Humble needed a win going into the final game. Due to the point system, a tie would do them no good. Unfortunately for them, the Wildcats tied Memorial 1-1 and were eliminated from competition. Coach Keene saw this as a learning experience playing against 6A schools and solid competition throughout. “We were able to find the things we were good at, but more importantly we able to find things we were weak in and build on [them]. So the sessions this week have been built around that,” Coach Keene said. Prior to the tournament, Humble had only played one scrimmage. Coach Keene can see the potential in his boys. In the first 25-30 minutes they look strong to him but in the second half they’ve let the games slip away. “Our challenge this season is putting an 80-minute game together,” he mentioned.
Although Humble had a strong squad last season even producing the district MVP, Oscar Zanudio, they finished at the bottom of the district standings. The coaching staff admitted that there were some issues with the defensive organization along with injuries such as concussion protocol that ultimately derailed the season. “We were optimistic at the beginning of the season, it just didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to,” Coach Keene confessed. There were multiple games in which they should have taken at least a point away, if not 3, in their eyes. They believe they let a lot of games get away. When the Wildcats switched to the 4-2-3-1 formation they were scoring a lot of goals. Although the attacking formation was working, they conceited more goals than they would have liked as well, so in the Spring Woods (district champs) game they knew they had to change things up defensively. Coach Keene adjusted the defense and played a deep line and held on to a 1-1 tie going into the final 3 minutes. On a restart from midfield a Spring Woods player sent a ball into the box and the Humble goalkeeper attempted to grab it but the ball sailed through the traffic and into the goal as Humble fell, 2-1, to the eventual regional finalists. Even though it was a tough loss the boys saw that changes and adjustments are pivotal in success.
With a five-year absence from post-season play, the Wildcats’ goal this season is to break that and qualify for the playoffs. They expect big things from senior captain Gabriel Loyola and junior captain Axel Moreno, along with fellow seniors Andrew Lee, Angel Castro, and sophomore Jon Cabrera. “Everyone has to put in an even amount of effort; go through the whole game and just be precise and focus,” defensive midfielder Axel Moreno said. Another one of his teammates agrees that the work must be put in to make it back to the playoffs. “We need dedication each and everyday and hard work,” defender Nestor Portillo said.
The soccer program is involved in the recycling contest up at the school. It’s a program in which the students collect cans and bottles and weigh in the amounts. The contest goes through April and currently the boys are at the head of the pact. They also read to local elementary schools and help kids with their schoolwork.
Saul Keene was under the direction of Lanny Morton while he was an assistant with Humble. In his last two seasons at Humble it became evident that Coach Keene was being groomed as the successor to Coach Morton. “There were some decisions he let me make about the program that I know now he wouldn’t have let me do if he wasn’t trying to let me learn,” Coach Keene admitted. He also spent a lot of time with Scott East, currently the Women’s Head Coach, whom was also an assistant at the time. “He showed me the ropes early on and we had a pretty solid friendship,” Coach Keene said. He spoke high praises about his assistant coach Hector Quijano speaking about his knowledge and passion. “I couldn’t ask for a better assistant. He has a passion that’s contagious.” Saul attended Cy Fair High School here in Houston, TX and played soccer under Glen Waddell. He then went on to play at Texas Lutheran University earning a double major in English and History.
written by Mark M. Johnson