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Jackson Memorial boys’ soccer team young, enthusiastic

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Steve Bado, the Jackson Memorial High School boys’ soccer coach, is anxious to see how his youthful players develop this season.

Bado, entering his 13th season as head coach and 24th overall with the program, is tampering expectations after a 12-8 season that included a trip to the state sectional tournament. Jackson Memorial fell to Cherokee High School in the opening round of the South Jersey, Group 4 playoffs in 2016.

“We’re a young team on paper,” Bado said. “It’s probably a rebuilding season. We only have two seniors coming back in the lineup. Obviously, we have higher expectations than just rebuilding. I have a lot of guys who bring back experience in soccer. Not a lot in age — we’re mostly sophomore and junior heavy — but we’ll look to compete.”

Despite the youth, Bado loves his team’s enthusiasm coming into the season.

“I think the biggest strength of the team is our attitude,” Bado said. “We have good kids. They work hard. They respect each other. They come from good families. The togetherness of this team is phenomenal.”

Bado still feels the team’s youth could be an issue, although he challenges his players to grow as much as they can this year.

“Our youth is definitely a concern,” Bado said. “If we can come of age as the season goes on, we’ll be OK.”

Bado will lean heavily this year on the talents of senior Kevin Luzzi (defender); juniors Nick Kinzler (goalie), Ben Patty (forward) and Joe Schlageter (midfielder); and sophomore Dan Russo (forward).

“Russo made third team all state last year,” Bado said. “So we’re expecting another big year from him. I’m also expecting big things from Schlageter, who was also an all-state selection last year. Patty made second team all-state. He’s a junior, and I expect him to have a huge year this year.

“We return Kinzler as one of my goalies [from] last year. I had Joe Weinstein last year as well, but he’s out with a knee injury. I thought they were going to be one and two. I felt that they were the two best goalies in the conference last year, and I had them both, which was great. So with Joe out, Kinzler should come in and do great things. Luzzi is a senior sweeper at defender. He’s a four-year letter-winner, and one of the two seniors ready to go here.”

The Jaguars will open their season on Sept. 7 at Brick Memorial High School at 3:45 p.m.

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