WYE MILLS – Mike Morse, Chesapeake College's new head men's soccer coach, is in this for the long haul.
"This is not a one-year deal for me," said the veteran Saints Peter and Paul High coach. "I want to come in and try to build a program that's going to reflect well on Chesapeake College. Hopefully we can build a soccer program that has the same level of success as some of the other athletic programs at the college."
Numbers have often been a problem through the years for the Skipjacks, but Morse said he's been able to bring on "14 or 15 players" to help him get through his initial season.
"It's certainly been a challenge," acknowledged Morse, whose squad hosts the College of Southern Maryland in Thursday's 4 p.m. season opener. "I kind of knew that going in since I didn't have the benefit of a recruiting cycle, but I'm pleased with the guys we have out."
While there are no returners from last year's squad, midfielder Dan McFarland (Easton High) is back after taking a season off to provide a little bit of collegiate experience and leadership.
"His work ethic has been tremendous," Morse said of McFarland. "He's usually one of the first ones at practice."
Given his team's lack of experience, Morse is pleased to have freshman Luke Blevins, who played at St. Mary's Ryken High in Southern Maryland, in the net.
"Luke is a solid goalie and we expect our goalie player to be one of our strengths," said Morse.
Morse cited Caroline County residents Josh Schmidt (North Caroline High) and Lucas Nagel (Colonel Richardson High) as "a couple of good backs" for the Skipjacks on defense and said midfielder Devin Brummell (Calvary Christian High) should add "good speed outside". Noah Connolly (Queen Anne's) and Shayne Ray (Mardela) will also be key midfielders.
Morse said three Easton High grads – Andrew Carr, Ronnie Scharch, and D.J. Cicotte – are good athletes with limited soccer experience who will help on defense, while midfielder Billy Benton (Queen Anne's County High) and forward Brian Saucedo (Easton High) have just joined the team.
"We'll figure out how they're going to help us," Morse said of Benton and Saucedo.
Morse said his coaching philosophy recognizes that players are the ones actually playing the game.
"My philosophy has always been that I can't play the game from the sidelines," said Morse. "I give them all the information I can at practice, but they're the ones who have to make the decisions on the field."
While this is Year 1 of Morse's building program, he believes the college has "a lot to offer" to student athletes that he can capitalize on as he recruits for the future.
"I want to make Chesapeake College a viable option for kids who are looking for a great educational value and the ability to continue their athletic careers," said Morse.
As for this year, Morse indicated teams would be wise not to overlook his squad, saying, "I think we have the capability to surprise some people."