TUSTIN – Foothill had one of the best groups of defenders in the county last season, starting off play in the Century League with five consecutive shutouts and giving up a total of three goals in 12 league games.
Three of the Knights' starting four backs are gone now, lost to graduation, including All County First Team selection Alex Hansen.
But the Knights still have Nathan Brown in goal. He's back for his senior season, and from the looks of it, scoring goals against the Knights is going to be quite a challenge once again.
Even though the Knights played most of Monday's Foothill Summer League game in their defensive third, they still shut out Santa Ana, 1-0, with Brown making four second-half saves. Brian Cabrera scored the game winner for the Knight midway through the first half.
“We are getting a lot of our returning attackers and the midfield is going to be strong,” Foothill coach Dave McAulay said. “The central part of our midfield is really going to be strong with Nico (Tagaloa) and Brain there.”
McAulay has taken over coaching the Knights, replacing Barry Turner, who is battling Lou Gehrig's Disease. At this time last year, Turner was still on the sidelines running his summer league and yelling out orders to his team, which went on to win the tournament championship, beating Century 1-0.
As the months dragged on after that, Turner continued to get weaker, and in February, Turner's 23-year career coaching Foothill came to an end when Coachella Valley defeated the Knights in the quarterfinals of the CIF-SS playoffs.
That loss McAulay said has become a big motivating factor for the Knights because they feel they could have won that game. A Foothill player was tackled hard in front of the box in that game, and while the Knights thought it should have resulted in a free kick, play continued, leading to a counter attack on which Coachella Valley scored the game winner.
McAulay said now it has become very difficult for Turner to talk as the disease continues to take his strength, but he still keeps tabs on the team and the progress of the summer league, texting McAulay from time to time.
“It is tough (to take over the team). I wanted to make sure that I do my best and keep this program in the right direction,” he said. “Barry has done it for so long and so well, I just want to step in and keep it running … keep the guys to the high standard both on and off the field.”