For nearly 3 decades Kevin Johnson was the head soccer coach for Kingwood High School. In June, he announced his retirement from KHS after many state appearances with both the boys and girls even capturing a state title with the girls in 1995. This season marks the first time since 1988 that a new head coach takes the sidelines for the Mustangs: Bryan Jennings. He may have some growing pains with an inexperienced roster but there’s no doubt he has taken over a prestigious program and is ready to take on the challenge to continue the winning tradition of Kingwood Soccer.
The Mustangs competed in the Governor’s Cup in Georgetown, TX this season along with the Klein Showcase. They went 0-3 in both tournaments marking the first time they had gone winless at either tournament. In the first tournament Coach Jennings admitted that the team looked like they had very little experience at the varsity level, with good reason. Only two of the boys on the team actually have had varsity experience. “That’s hard to have to carry the other 18-19 guys on your shoulder,” Coach Jennings said of his two veterans. “The goal at the tournament was to make sure everyone came in and got playing time and got experience.”
Depending on how strong the midfield is on the opposing team, Kingwood will counter with either a 3 or 4 man back defensive line. The entire formation fluctuates on how well the boys are doing in certain situations whether it is an attacking stance or a defensive one. “That’s one thing about the kids is they’ve done a really good job adapting to whoever we’ve played this year. I’ve been really impressed by them,” Coach Jennings said.
Losing the amount of boys that the Mustangs did last season puts them in a situation where they are basically rebuilding. Going into district Kingwood is always considered a favorite to be one the elite teams. This season they are currently fighting for their playoff lives. With Oak Ridge, The Woodlands, and Conroe fighting for the top three spots in the standings, College Park is the last team that Kingwood has a shot at catching and right now they are only 2 points behind them in the standings. “You can see their confidence from the first month going into the second month has completely changed. We’re playing really well together, even with the injuries people are stepping up,” Coach Jennings said.
Defensively, Kingwood seems to be set. Transitioning and finishing in the final third of the field has been a challenge for the Mustangs as they have had a hard time finishing the ball. The boys were thrilled when they defeated Summer Creek 5-1 and they’re hoping it’s the beginning of a scoring outburst.
Bryce Nelson has been leading the Mustangs very well this season and returning letterman Daniel Synder has helped anchor the defense with him along with Michael Stroud. Alexis Arrendondo has been the bright spot up top for Kingwood and has produced a good portion of their offense. “He’s the one that’s kept us alive these early district games getting goals,” Coach Jennings said. Junior Marcus Melgar is fighting injuries his first season on varsity but is hoping to get back out on the field and help contribute. “It’s a pretty great team and we’re a close team,” Melgar said. “I believe we just need to focus and have our heads together and we can go far,” he continued.
Since the main goalkeeper went down with an injury, Cody Larsen, Coach Jennings has his backup goalkeepers compete for a starting position game by game in a challenge called Goalie Wars. Tanner Roberts, Parker George, and Donny Lawrence all compete with goals about 15-feet apart and play a game up to five to determine a winner.
Bobby Moffat of the former NASL Dallas Tornadoes Soccer Club largely inspired Bryan Jennings’ coaching career. “Somehow he took me under his wing. I kind of got to learn coaching from all of the international guys he would bring over,” Jennings commented. He also mentioned that he wouldn’t be able to do what he does without his family and supportive wife. Jennings attended Duncanville High School where he played soccer all four years and was offered a roster spot at St. Edward’s University but chose to play soccer at Mountain View College in Dallas, TX.
Written by Mark M. Johnson