Brad Keller didn’t start playing soccer until he was in seventh grade. He was staying the night at a friend’s house, who asked if he wanted to join him for rec club soccer practice.
"I said, ‘Yeah, sure,’" Keller said. "I mean, what else was I going to do?"
They put the now-Peninsula High School junior at center back in his first ever soccer practice.
"They said to kick the ball as far as you can," Keller said. "I didn’t have cleats or anything. The coach said, ‘If you want to be on the team, you can do it.’ He taught me a whole lot."
Most high school soccer players who play at the varsity level have been playing for their entire lives. Keller got a late start.
"It wasn’t very hard (to adjust) because I just really liked it so much," he said. "I just wanted to keep doing it all the time. It was awesome once I started getting comfortable."
Now, he’s the center back for the Seahawks — one of the most important positions on a soccer team. Center backs need to be strong defensively, good in the air and vocal leaders, commanding the back line and organizing the defense. First-year coach Brad Scandrett, the former JV coach and top varsity assistant, said Keller is an integral part of the team’s defense.
"He’s big and fast," Scandrett said. "He wins balls in the air. His touch has improved. He’ll be a leader in the back. In a lot of ways, he’ll be the glue to our defense coming together. As Brad goes, the rest of our team will go. He’s vocal, he’s opinionated. He’s a good kid, a fun kid. He’s coachable."
It’s been a smooth transition to a new coach, Keller said. It helps that Scandrett was on the staff last year and has familiarity with the players.
"He’s been really great," Keller said. "He’s very positive. His ideas with coaching, (his) approach to the other players has been really great. The best part is he really believes in our team."
Indeed, Scandrett does believe in this team. Despite losing a couple starters from a team that went to the Class 3A West Central District playoffs last year, he believes this team will be even better than last year’s unit.
"They’ve just gotten better," Scandrett said. "From where tryouts were last year to this year, it’s just night and day better than it was at this point in the season. I think we’re better right now than where we ended the season."
Senior Christian Lewis has made the switch from baseball to soccer in his final year as a Peninsula Seahawk, and will play forward. Lewis plays club soccer, and Scandrett said he’s thrilled to have him on the squad. Senior midfielder Ryan Campbell, junior keeper Ethan Martin, senior forward Logan Marten and sophomore forward Maynor Martinez should all have a big impact as well.
Overall, it’s a team loaded with experience, ability and ambition.
"I told the guys, ‘Our goal is to win state,’" Scandrett said. "I think we can work our way there. We have the talent, we have the speed. I want to see us maximize on those. We’ve laid the groundwork, it’s time for us to fly and take off as a program."