AUBURNDALE – To understand just how dedicated Auburndale boys soccer coach Guy Jennings is to the sport, know that his front yard isn’t a yard at all. It’s a soccer field.
Which pretty well defines his players’ dedication to the sport, too — a passion for the pitch that brought the Bloodhounds a third soccer state title in 13 years a couple of weekends back.
In fact, Auburndale ran the table when it came to any team from the Sunshine State, completing its journey with a 5-3 overtime win over Fort Lauderdale to earn the 4A crown. The team’s only losses in the just finished 2018-19 season came on a trip to California.
Much like the regular season, the Bloodhounds spread the wealth offensively, with five different players scoring goals, including the game winner from Ducarmel Jennestin, one of the few juniors on the senior-laden team — a team that pretty much has played together since the ninth grade, when the group advanced to the state semifinals.
“We’ve been trying to get back there for a long time,” Jennings said.
He was Auburndale’s club soccer coach in 2005 and 2007, which launched the school’s soccer success.
“I knew what it tasted like, but they were 6-yearolds when that happened,” Jennings added. “We knew about the possibilities of this team since they were freshmen.“
Noah Stephens, Noah Sims, Ben Pigg and Echoni Puis also scored. For the season, the five players combined for 93 goals, but none of them had more than 30. Dawson Hinkle made it all stand up on the defense with his sparkling goals against average of .084. The Bloodhounds had been close before, including two final fours before this year, but hadn’t gotten back to the top of the mountain.
“You can have a great team, but you still don’t always get over the hump. One bad game can send you home,” he said But this edition of the Bloodhounds was a little different, and a little wiser, too.
“This team was so good, We just had too many pieces that that wasn’t going to happen. We had too much firepower, too much defense, too much goalkeeping. We just had all the pieces this year,” Jennings added.
And Jennings knows that another state title will be motivation for the city’s younger players, a few of which were running around in his front yard, er, soccer field, a few days after states.
“It’s kind of like when the United States gymnastics team has a great Olympics,” he added. “What happens? The enrollment for gymnastic classes double and triple. It’s the same for soccer. We’ve created a culture here in Auburndale, a little rural, blue collar community. We have to work harder, and we’ve been able to pull that off.”