But the youthful exuberance of a few freshmen has meshed well with the veteran savvy of Fellowship’s five seniors, leading the Paladins to an 8-2 start and on the cusp of the state playoffs with three matches to play.
“We knew this team had potential and the talent was there, that if we played well together we could field a really exciting team,” said Durham, now in his 11th season with the Fellowship boys’ soccer program.
“You never really know how it will develop, but things unfolded fast, our freshmen gelled with the older guys and we have played well so far.”
The Paladins’ season to date includes a number of strong non-conference wins against larger schools like Howard and Warner Robins along with a 3-1 mark in Region 6A play — good enough for a tie for first place with Holy Innocents’, whom they beat in their only meeting this season.
Durham said their success comes from a methodical offensive attack and a physical approach to defense, noting senior center back Drue Akin and senior midfielder Chadwick O’Neal as standouts in those areas through Fellowship’s first 10 matches.
“We like to keep possession and be patient with the ball and Drue and Chadwick have done a great job of that this year,” said the Fellowship coach. “Drue in particular is just a tremendous player and when you add in the freshman twins (Jake Williamson and Drew Williamson) lighting it up for us, it has been a good mix.”
Jake, a striker, is Fellowship’s leading scorer this year while Drew, a midfielder, has joined O’Neal and junior Chris Hays in a talented midfield.
“When the guys on this team play well together, they are a very a worthy opponent to anyone we play,” said Durham.
“It has already been a great regular season for them. Now it is in their hands as to how far they want to take this thing.”
Fellowship entered the week with two area games remaining — at Holy Innocents’ last night then its region finale against Mt. Pisgah on Friday.
A win in either match would lock up a state playoff appearance while a win in both would give the Paladins a region title and a first round bye in the Class A state playoffs.