PRAIRIE BASSE — Although his team no longer displays a dominant offensive attitude, Beau Chene boys soccer coach Chad Vidrine isn’t complaining.
Beau Chene has remained at the top of the Division III power rankings nearly all season and the Gators, Vidrine said, are accomplishing that atypically — with defense.
The Gators, 19-1-5, have recorded 17 shutouts this season and the opposition has scored only 11 goals.
That’s a major contrast with his past Beau Chene teams, Vidrine said, especially those that once featured Brock Hollier, who scored 134 career goals, including 54 last season.
“It’s been a big difference for us,” Vidrine said. “We’ve always been a team that relied on our goal scorers, especially when we had (Hollier), one of the top scorers ever in the state.”
While offense helped direct the Gators to the 2013 championship game and a semifinal appearance last year, Vidrine said he initially didn’t anticipate the type of personality his team would display this season.
The Gators returned only three seniors and looking back, Vidrine said he probably wasn’t that optimistic.
One player who perhaps disagreed with that perception is returning goalkeeper Briley Dronet.
Dronet, a senior, said he had no doubt about the quality of the defensive line performing in front of him.
“I always had confidence,” Dronet said. “I thought everyone could be better than last year. We lost a lot from the previous year, but I knew the defense would be good.”
The defense, with Gaven Stelly, Nevin Brown, Cody Wiggins, Charles Williams and Matthew Lagrange has made his job as goalkeeper easier.
Vidrine said the offense hasn’t been totally inefficient, especially with the addition of senior midfielder-forward Juan Carlos Brito, a foreign exchange student from Ecuador.
Brito has 31 goals and 13 assists, while forward David Smith is also among the division’s assist leaders (19).
Dronet’s family serves as Brito’s host family.
“He (Brito) is like a brother to me. We sometimes argue and fight over who wins the soccer video games,” Dronet said.
Brito said he came from a soccer-saturated environment in Ecuador, where he played in high schools that provided educational and athletic opportunities..“For me, coming over here, I’ve found soccer very different than it is in my country. Here (in the United States) it is more physical, but I have adjusted to that,” Brito said.
“I am small and teams like to put the bigger players on me. I am quick, and I use that to get away.”
Brito said he came to the U.S. looking for a place to play high school soccer and perhaps use the sport as a way to finance college.
Dronet said Brito has made a difference.
“Juan Carlos is one of the main reasons for where we are,” said Dronet. “He knows the game, and he could be a coach. One thing I think he has taught our players is how to pass more efficiently. (Brito) is always at the top of our triangle and seems to know where everyone is going to be.”
Vidrine said the team developed its essential cohesion in December when the Gators played a weekend game at Northlake Christian.
Toward the end of the game, Beau Chene’s Lucius Gardner suffered a serious leg injury, which stopped the game.
“Lucius broke his leg in that game and the kids have really become much closer and they seem to have played more as a tight group,” Vidrine said.
Vidrine said the Gators’ soccer program, now 9 years old, has flourished despite its existence in a rural area.
With none of Beau Chene’s feeder schools playing soccer, Vidrine said he has turned to Lafayette’s club soccer teams to help develop a program.
“We have a lot of kids that have that blue collar mentality, but they also know the game,” Vidrine said. “They have been part of the club soccer team at an early age, playing in Memphis, Dallas, Atlanta and big venues like that.”