Shooting for a star

Head coach Chayden Feist watches closely during Stephenville's unbeaten regular season, the first in the history of its boys soccer program. || photo by JESSIE HORTON

Feist: We’re trying to get another state championship star on that ‘S’


STEPHENVILLE (March 29, 2016) — Stephenville boys soccer and its head coach, Chayden Feist, are the perfect match.

Though nobody saw it coming.

The coach didn’t attend a school where soccer is even a sport. HIs players represent a school that has never been to a regional or state tournament, and doesn’t boast droves of club players like many urban and suburban boys powers.

But once the surface is scratched and a deeper look is taken, it’s quickly evident that the rise of Feist and Stephenville soccer is no mystery at all. That a terrific season was about to unfold should have been clear to everyone from the start, from the day Feist took over a team of gifted ball handlers and strikers, backed by a gutsy leader, a heady sweeper and a mental giant of a goal keeper.



And a head coach who is simply living the dream, and taking his team along for the ride.

“I can feel it in practice and in the way we’re playing in games. We’ve not only beat but demolished some really great teams this year,” said Feist. “I look forward to moving on and playing some teams comparable to us and facing some tough challenges with these guys. We’re excited and trying to get another state championship star on that ’S.’”

Feist is referring to the Stephenville Yellow Jacket logo, an ’S’ with a Yellow Jacket and stars for each of the school’s boys team titles. When the last of those stars was added following a fifth football title in 2012, Feist wasn’t even at Stephenville.

Though he always wanted to be.

“When I was interviewing for a job here, Mike Carroll asked me why I wanted to coach at Stephenville,” Feist recalls. “I told him this is my dream job. This is where I’ve always wanted to be.”

He became assistant coach under Joe Carter, and was promoted to head coach following last season, when Carter announced he planned to make more time to spend with his family and see his daughters compete in spring sports.

Just like that, Feist – who played in a city league while coaching in Dallas before coming to Stephenville, and played some intramural soccer in college, but before that, had his last hands-on experience with the sport at age 10 – was the man in charge.

“Once I got to junior high, Comanche didn’t have soccer, so I move into football, baseball, basketball, track, that sort of thing,” he said. “I never would have dreamed then that I would make a living coaching soccer.”

Though he was still a fan, watching the World Cup every four years, following other cups and professional seasons in between and even making trips to Frisco to watch FC Dallas play in person, it was still a bit overwhelming when Feist accepted the promotion from assistant to head coach at Stephenville.

“It was definitely daunting at first, but I believe God doesn’t give you more than you can take, so I was excited by the opportunity,” said Feist of becoming head coach.

And while the majority of local sports fans may not have known it, Feist and those closest to the program were well aware then the possibilities that lie ahead.

Though not even Feist could have really expected this.

For the first time in program history – and the first time in any team sport at Stephenville since football in 1994 – Yellow Jacket soccer completed the regular season undefeated. Then they stayed that way, riding two goals from Aaron Veloz, an early header save by sweeper Isaac Lingle and more shutout net minding by Noble Alexander to a 2-0 win over Decatur in the bi-district round of the Region I-4A playoffs.

Stephenville is now heavily favored against Borger in the area round. They meet at 3 p.m. Friday at Wichita Falls ISD Memorial Stadium, following the Stephenville girls and Pampa at 1 p.m.

“With this group of kids, I don’t talk about what round we’re in or how many more wins it takes to get to state or anything like that,” Feist said. “These kids just enjoy playing soccer. For a lot of them, it’s a big part of their heritage and something they grew up with. I remember the first day of practice we didn’t have a net on the goal yet and they said, ‘Coach, we don’t need a net we just want the ball,’ and off they went. They just want to play as many games as possible, and obviously the way to do that at this point of the year is to keep winning.”

Something they have done 16 times without a loss, though they were tied twice by Bridgeport, who the Yellow Jackets could very well meet in the next round next week.

But nobody in Stephenville camp is concerned about Bridgeport yet, and Feist isn’t even allowing his team to focus much on Borger. He instead wants them concentrating only on their own brand of soccer.

“Our guys are confident and playing really well together right now. We just have to be us.”

Indeed. Because the talent is there. After a trip to the regional quarterfinals last season, Stephenville returned almost its whole team, and it was clear from the start that this team had some bite.

Facing 5A powerhouse Waco University in the finals of the Knights of Columbus Challenge of Champions in Stephenville, the Yellow Jackets battled to a 0-0 draw in full time, then won, 4-2, in the ensuing penalty kick shootout.

“That kind of set the tone, and I could feel it coming when we started the shootout,” Feist recalls. “I was so confident to have Noble in goal for it because he just has swag. You can see it in his eyes, that he doesn’t get nervous or sweat it when the other team gets the ball or even when they are coming right at him. He sees it as an opportunity to showcase his talent, because he’s a lot more athletic than he looks. He can move side-to-side and he can jump. He’s an athlete.”

He made saves both ways in the shootout, and Stephenville hasn’t slowed since. There were two draws with Bridgeport just days apart followed by an 18-day layoff before district, but once league play began, they picked up right where they left off. They built a 3-0 lead before holding off Mineral Wells, 3-2, in the district opener, and haven’t allowed a goal since. That’s six straight shutouts including the playoff win over Decatur.

“Defensively, we have Isaac Lingle back there, and he is so valuable. He refs soccer, he teaches me more about soccer and he just has an innate ability to put himself in the right place at the right time,” said Feist.

The same could be said about Pedro Manrriquez, who Feist calls the unequivocal leader of the team.



“The number one guy on our team who is there every single day holding all the other players accountable and giving everything is Pedro,” said the coach. “He’s on defense so he doesn’t always get showcased scoring goals or doing the things that interest people, but day-in, day-out, there is no doubt he is the leader of our team.”

He even fought for his team, literally. Manrriquez and striker Tino Rocha each received red cards for their involvement in a benches clearing brawl with Brownwood in the final game of the district season. Each missed the Decatur match and will be back in action against Borger Friday.

Rocha will be reunited with equally dangerous striker Veloz, the team and district scoring leader.

“Every time Veloz gets the ball I get excited because I just know something magical is about to happen,” said Feist. “It’s like one in every four times he gets the ball he just does something unreal with it. If you’re not watching the game closely, when he gets the ball you better get ready because it’s about to get good.”

Undefeated good, and barring a significant upset on Friday, area championship good. With the potential for a lot more soccer to come.

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