By Carey Phillips

Smoky Mountain’s soccer team will begin practice at 5 p.m. today (Thursday) at Carr Hooper Stadium/Babe Howell Field for all players in grades 9-12.

“We feel pretty good about the season,” Coach Stephen Brown said. “We lost a lot of great quality seniors last year when we were one goal away from winning the conference championship. Our guys coming back have that in the forefront of their minds and want to right the ship.”

Returning all-conference players include midfielder Dawson Karup and goalkeeper Zeb Sink, both seniors.

“We have a lot of veterans who are two-, three- and four-year varsity members,” Brown said. “We’ve also got a good group coming up. Other returning full-time or part-time starters from a 16-5-3 team include senior midfielders Noah Hinton, Miguel Antonio-Perez and Luis Palacios and senior forward Shawn Byfield.

“We lost our entire defense other than Zeb in goal,” Brown said. “This is a great opportunity for some of our returnees and younger players to fill those roles. That will be the big test for us as a team.

“I’m excited about our midfield,” he added. “We’re looking for a guy who can put the ball in the back of the net.”

A scrimmage is planned for Saturday at Reynolds. The Mustangs will face Erwin at noon and Reynolds at 3 p.m.

Another scrimmage is set for Aug. 14 at North Buncombe.

The season will open Aug. 19 at Owen. The first home game will be Aug. 22 against Chase.

Stephen Parsons, who was recently named head women’s coach, will remain an assistant for the men. Jonathan Parsons will again coach the JVs, with Cole Young his assistant.

Aug. 19 – at Owen; 21 – at Tuscola; 22 – Chase; 27 – at Tallulah Falls, Georgia; 28 – Highlands.

Sept. 2 – at East Rutherford; 3 – Madison; 9 – Rabun Gap, Georgia; 11 – at Polk 16 – Swain; 18 – Polk; 19 – at Erwin; 23 – Asheville; 30 – at Pisgah.

Oct. 2 – Hendersonville; 7 – at Brevard; 9 – at East Henderson; 14 – Franklin; 16 – Pisgah; 21 – at Hendersonville; 23 – Brevard; 28 – East Henderson; Oct. 30 – at Franklin.