Tony Navarre sees more than names and pictures, indeed he sees memories because this group of players entered the program at the same time as he became the Highlanders coach after being an assistant coach for many years.
“It’s a fun group because we have the kids I started with in first grade all on the team this year,” he said of the group of Jacob Bakalinsky, Pierre Buisard, Max Dudan , AJ Faber, Jack Gruen, Blake Heintz, Khristian Hoard, Campbell Packard, Truman Nolte, Drew Seyfer and Holden Smith. “I think we have a lot of really good things going for us. I hope we can continue to put some things together.
These banners also serve as a reminder of team strength in this class.
“It’s good that we have guys at all levels who can really contribute,” he said. “We have good goalkeepers. Drew had a great season. Gruen is back to score goals for us and Bakalinsky is back to win balls through the middle. Khristian Hoard was terrific all over the pitch. Holden Smith was a solid D. He put on some good muscle and he’s just a tough guy to get around.
The list goes on and on, but Homestead has more in the closet than a large group of talented seniors.
“I think what excites me most about this team is that we have the depth, we have the plays, we have the technical ability, we have the athleticism,” Navarre said. “It really has to be my job as a coach to make sure we put them in the best positions to win games.
“We have a lot of team speed. We have a few individual players who are really, really strong technically,” he added. “We have young guys who can come off the bench and play who haven’t been to college yet but are contributing now. We have a young returning player who is absolutely locked on the left side in defense in Luke Boegel.
Navarre highlighted three sophomores who are making significant contributions.
“Luke (Boegel) was actually a rotation striker for us last year. He plays defense at the club. We lost our four starting defenders last year at graduation so we weren’t all totally sure what we were going to do, but he started and he was fantastic,” the coach said. “Lucas Mersky was a player we got. He just arrived this season. He is super athletic. He walks the field for us.
“Allen Wild…. gives us a piece that we can move. He plays a little in defense, he plays a little in midfield. I’m convinced he can hold the ball up high. Just really versatile.
Homestead scored plenty of goals in the first half of the season, putting the ball in the net 48 times in 11 appearances, but one of those Navarre enjoyed the most came from striker Moises Casanova and Nolte highlighted in a recent 3-1 win over Wauwatosa East in a non-conference game.
“Moises jumped on a sub and won a race, moved around and threw a really, really nice ball, and Truman worked really hard to get up the field. A player who might not score is probably looking at the game in front of him, not thinking he’s going to come back on the pitch,” Navarre said of that tally. “He was on a throw to the corner, the ball came in and he deserved that goal.”
It’s another example of Homestead’s depth and potential this season and proof that the club are exploiting those things this season. The Highlanders are 9-1-1, 5-0 in the North Shore Conference after Tuesday’s 8-0 win over Port Washington.
The only defeat came against a powerful Verona side who scored three goals in the opening 18 minutes of the season opener.
“They’re a solid team, they’re obviously one of the best teams in the state, so it was a really, really good learning experience for us,” Navarre said. “It gave some insight into what we’re looking at in terms of rotations and substitutions and things like that.”
The veteran coach highlighted wins over Oshkosh West and Nicolet as key wins so far. He noted that the Knights entered the league game with a 7-0 record and provided a good test for his club.
Homestead shared the NSC Championship with Whitefish Bay last year, but Navarre sees them as the team to beat in a highly talented conference.
“Whitefish Bay are number 1 until they’re not, so we have to beat those guys,” Navarre said, pointing to teams such as Cedarburg and Nicolet as other teams he says will appear in the title table. “Hopefully we put our best game on the pitch against them (Bay).”
The regular season will conclude with the Highlanders taking on the Bulldogs on October 6 and then the Blue Dukes on October 11.
Before that, Homestead will be back in action today, visiting Hartford for a 7pm start.