The Jayton soccer team has seen quite a bit of success in recent times, including a state semi-final in 2018. The Jaybirds will now look to a younger group of cast members to continue the winning tradition.

Jayton lost all but two starters and will have one of the smallest senior classes in years. Quarterback Joel Williams, the lone returnees on the offensive, is one of four seniors on the team.

Junior defender Kaden Valerio is also back after a breakout season. Valerio was a State Honorable Mention after 146 tackles, nine sacks, five forced fumbles, and four fumble recoveries.

Stanaland said the two returnees will be screened for their guidance.

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“I usually let the kids decide who our captains will be. You know, I let them have a say,” said Stanaland. “And I could almost guarantee that these two returning starters in Joel and Kaden will be unanimous. I mean these two guys are great leaders, Joel on offense and Caden on defensive. …

“Just having one voice on each side of the ball is going to be really, really good, and a voice that your teammates will listen to because these two guys are so respected by everyone.”

Stanaland expects Valerio to “absolutely explode” this season and play with a lot of confidence after his sophomore success. The coach called him one of the most consistent players he has ever had.

Valerio’s presence will be vital while Stanaland decides where to place his other defenders.

“The biggest thing is figuring out where you can all play,” Stanaland said, “because we have a lot of kids who I think can be very versatile, which is exciting. So we’ll have a lot of guys who can play multiple positions. “

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One of them is 6-foot-3,170-pound Caleb Beck, who dropped out after moving from Aspermont last season.

“He could play on the defensive, he could play a corner or he could play safety,” said Stanaland. “He just has these kinds of skills. And we have a lot of kids who are like that.”

Julian Segura, a senior, has college experience and will start with nose protection.

Second year junior Cayden Greenwood and Justin Collins will battle it out for a job in the starting XI, replacing one of Jayton’s greatest players of all time.

Pecos Smith, an all-state first-team running back, ran for 2,140 yards and 45 TDs with 677 passing yards and 12 TDs. He also caught four passes for 190 yards and four TDs.

Stanaland doesn’t expect a player to take up the gap, but they are confident that a “really deep stall” of backs combined can produce 2,500 to 3,000 yards on the ground.

These include Jaydon Rivera, Isaac King, Cameron Harris, Jayce Rivera, and Carson Sessums.

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Jayton also expects another great year for the newcomers. Stanaland said there will be “growing pains” but the group is talented, hungry and used to winning. The Jaybirds JV has only lost once in the past two seasons.

The plan outside the district will be vital to development, but Stanaland is not worried about wins and losses. The country’s 2018 semi-final team started 0-2.

And if the Jaybirds move forward as expected, it could mean yet another showdown with Motley County for the District 7-1A Division II Championship. Jayton led the Matadors 67-50 in the 2020 regular season finals, and the teams will meet again in Week 11.

Motley County is number 1 in the preseason rankings while Jayton is number 9.

“It will be really good to see them grow throughout the season this year,” said Stanaland. “It’s one of those deals, if we do what we did we will peak late. And I think this is a group that is talented and mentally strong enough to make some noise in November because secure.”

Jayton Jaybirds

Head coach: Josh Stanaland

Record 2020: 11-2 total, 4-0 in the district

Basic offense: J-bird

Basic defense: 2-3

Last playoff appearance: 2020

Returning postmen: 12th

Top returners: E / DE Kaden Valerio, QB / DL Joel Williams, NG Julian Segura, RB / LB Jaydon Rivera, RB / DB Cameron Harris, RB / DB Isaac King, RB / LB Jayce Rivera, E / Caleb Beck, RB Carson Sessums.