When it comes to consistency, Laurel Highlands is right near the top of the list of area boys soccer programs.
The Mustangs will be seeking their their fifth consecutive WPIAL playoff berth and eighth in the last nine years in 2020.
Jerry Rogers has been with the program since 2003 and took over as head coach in 2014. Since then he’s compiled an overall record of 63-42-6 and a section mark of 41-24-3 as he begins his seventh season.
“I think we have a pretty good system,” Rogers said. “It seems like we have a consistent influx of talent. We have a lot of kids who play a lot of soccer, like with the Riverhounds and travel teams like that.”
Rogers gave credit to LH middle school coach Josh Nairn as well.
“Josh is a former player here and he does a tremendous job getting these young kids ready,” said Rogers, who also pointed out his seniors provide a good example for the underclassmen.
“They actually teach them, too. During our practices you can see the younger kids are stepping it up because of what they’re learning off the older kids.”
Laurel Highlands lost five players to graduation a year ago but still has plenty of talent returning, especially on the offensive end, which is a change, according to Rogers.
“It seems like we usually rely on our defense,” Rogers said, “but this year we’ve got guys that can put the ball in the net, so our strength might be our offense.”
The Mustangs have three seniors in Pat Hickle, Zach Layton and Kolby Livingston.
“Pat will be play center/defense, Zach is our goalkeeper and Kolby is a striker,” Rogers said.
LH features a strong junior class that includes Matt Lucas, Matt Phillips, Carson Seaman, Manny Olivares, Nico Johns and Joey Lemansky.
“Matt was our leading scorer last year as a sophomore,” Rogers noted. “We picked him as a captain last season and picked him again this year.”
Seamon, who will play defense, and Lemansky, who can play midfield or defense, are also captains.
“Matt is a center/mid,” said Rogers, who also pointed out sophomores Ian Hamilton and Harry Radcliffe as key players.
Rogers, whose junior varsity coach is his son Jerry Rogers, is altering his attack this season.
“We’re going to try a different formation this year so Matt will be either a center striker or midfield,” Rogers said.
“These are all guys who played last year and most of them will start, depending on what formation we use, but they’ll all see plenty of playing time.”
The Mustangs opened their season with one of the toughest games on their schedule when they hosted Trinity on Monday night.
“We’re in a tough section,” said Rogers, “and Trinity is supposed to be the top team this year. They threw Thomas Jefferson in there this year, too. I really don’t know that much about them. I know we lost five seniors, Ringgold lost some good kids, Belle Vernon lost some good kids.”
The section also includes Greensburg Salem and Albert Gallatin.
“I think anybody can win it this year,” Rogers said. “There are a lot of good teams. It’s wide open.”