TEAMS TO WATCH (alphabetical order)
Chattanooga Christian: The experience-laden Chargers will be among the favorites to win the Class A/AA state title after a runner-up finish last season.
McCallie: The Blue Tornado were state runners-up last season in Division II-AA.
Southeast Whitfield: The Raiders, coming off a Georgia Class AAA semifinal loss, already are 5-0 this season.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Rocklin Shumaker, Chattanooga Christian: The East Tennessee State signee totaled 49 goals and 19 assists in the past two seasons.
Arturo Rocha, McCallie: The junior forward is a two-time first-team all-city selection, finishing with 10 goals and 11 assists last season.
Mickey Guerrero, Southeast Whitfield: The Truett-McConnell signee was named a Best of Preps all-area selection, primarily playing defender but adding 13 goals.
In most aspects of life, growth shows maturity. Chattanooga Christian boys' soccer coach Shawn Brower hopes the Chargers' growth and maturity will lead them one step higher than in 2010.
In a year in which the Chargers scored 107 goals and went 21-2-2, a painful final result - a penalty-kick loss to Boyd-Buchanan in the state-title game - is their most lasting memory. Brower's message to them, however, is to look past that final result and embrace their entire body of work.
"I talked to my guys after that game and said that we couldn't look at our season as being unsuccessful just because we didn't win a state title," Brower said. "We want to desperately, but what differs with this team is that our brotherhood and togetherness has risen above the championships.
"We want that title, and it would be nice, but that can't be the only thing that divides success and failure."
The state-final loss last season followed a 2009 campaign in which CCS lost in the same fashion to Alcoa in the Class A/AA state quarterfinals.
Brower said depth should not be an issue, as he has been able to sub as many as nine players in at one time in the preseason without experiencing any fall-off in the level of play. The upperclass-laden Chargers got a positive result from three scrimmages, battling to scoreless ties with Class AAA powers Bearden and Farragut and defeating Knoxville Catholic 1-0.
Brower has been with this season's senior class for six seasons, while assistant coach Gene Nelson - who was the seniors' middle school head coach - has been around for five.
"Our focus has been enjoying our time together," Brower said. "It's going to be hard to see those guys go, but what I want them to take away is the relationships. I've already noticed a common bond between the players and a willingness to work and hold each other to a higher standard.
"We know we're probably going to be a high rank early on, and we're used to it, but we're not cocky. There's an inner confidence and maturity with these guys that they can come out and play the best they can and be free in that regard.
"Games are one thing we do together, but not the thing. Soccer is just a part of the life we share. I've got three sons, but the 20 guys on this team are just an extension of my family."