Wyatt Darnell

Knoxville’s Wyatt Darnell makes a save.

Knoxville was 14-5 a year ago, which included a spot at the State Soccer Tournament in Des Moines for only the second time in school history.

Back from that fabulous squad of 2019 are 14 players who were on the State roster for Coach Dylan Mick.

“Most of those 14 would have been big time contributors to this season,” Mick said.

Returning starters were senior Wyatt Darnell, who was honorable mention all-state while playing in goal for the Panthers.

Other starters back included senors Nash Linsley and JJ Beaver as outside backers.

Braedon Pollard a senior, started several games as a forward. Also heavily used seniors on the 2020 squad were Dom Avon and Cooper Van Hauen at the wing.

Senior Ian Crossett is another player who earned some starts at defensive mid-field.

Junior Colby Sandholdt was the only returning starter in his class and played heavy minutes all of last year as a defensive mid.

Mick added, “Sophomores Emmett Schmidt and Brock Benner would both be stepping into larger roles as they came off the bench primarily last year but would be seeing much heavier minutes as varsity starters or primary rotation players this season.”

The strength of the team started in goal with Darnell and two capable back-ups.

The other strength was the attack with Dom, Cooper, Emmett, Braedon, and Junior Kyle Davis who all found the net last year.

Toss in Brock Benner and freshman Luka DeJong and the Panthers had some firepower.

One of the few weaknesses to open the season would have been inexperience defensively at center back.

Gable Garcia and Isaac Schmidt would have battled for the open spot on the field.

In looking around the South Central Conference Mick commented, “This year Albia looked to have a strong squad, they were good in our summer league and indoor which is reduced players so it would have been interesting to have a run with them on a full field. With the amount of experience and talent we have returning our expectation was to be tops in the conference again,” Mick stated.

Knoxville needed to replace their four senior captains from 2019, Joey Kesteloot, Spencer DeJoode, Elliott Schmidt, and Cristian Magana. Magana and DeJoode were both first-team all-state in 2019.

“Our experience and the intense amount of work our players put into the off season gave us very high expectations this year,” the coach said.

We will never know if the 2020 team could have qualified for State in back-to-back years.

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