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Raiders have strong program

South Range continues success on soccer pitch

Submitted photo Christian Abrigg of South Range prepares to kick the ball during a recent game.

BEAVER TOWNSHIP — Rankings. Coaches around Ohio don’t just hand them out like candy on Halloween.

There’s no trick to it. The treats reside in the hard work and dedication set forth in the offseason, building blocks for success.

The South Range boys soccer labors are quite fruitful as a Division III team, making the state’s final four in 2014 and reaching the state title game in 2015.

The Raiders advanced to the Division III regional semifinals in 2016 and have been one of the area’s better teams, spending time in Division II the last couple of seasons because of the OHSAA’s competitive balance formula.

This year, there are 21 players on the roster and no junior varsity team. South Range is back in Division III and is off to a 5-0 start — 4-0 in Northeast-8 play.

The Ohio Scholastic Soccer Coaches Association has the Raiders ranked eighth in the state, according to the latest boys D-3 poll.

“It’s definitely exciting to be ranked that high, but we shouldn’t be focused on that,” said senior captain Christian Abrigg. “We should focus on each game at a time, make sure we focus on our final goal.”

The Raiders should be considered the favorite to win this year’s D-3 Niles District title. To achieve that goal, South Range has a Division II-based schedule with state-ranked opponents like Howland, Canfield and Revere, which currently is ranked No. 2 in the latest D-2 OSSCA boys poll.

“It’ll allow us to be more prepared for the D-3 tournament,” coach Michael Bailey said.

Nothing is taken for granted with this Raiders team. Steady progress for South Range, getting through a rigorous NE-8 schedule and non-conference games.

“As long as we keep steadily growing and getting better, we’ll be fine,” said Canaan Johnson, one of eight seniors at South Range. “With the talent we have, we have athleticism. We have the right tools, as long as we stay healthy. We don’t have that many numbers, but we have talent. As long as we don’t waste it, we could do something that day.”

South Range is a cohesive unit. No superstars, just team soccer for a team which has 12 returning letter winners.

“They’ve completely bought into the system that we’ve run,” said Bailey, who is going into his fourth season. “We have a quite a few talented players on our team. There’s not one that stands above the rest. They all come together and just play great soccer.”

The team-oriented Raiders would have it no other way.