Chalk Talk: Leetham discusses Calaveras boys' soccer

Calaveras head coach Rob Leetham

Calaveras Enterprise sports editor Guy Dossi spoke with Calaveras High School’s head boys’ soccer coach Rob Leetham after Calaveras’ 2-1 win over the Ripon Christian Knights Nov. 22 at Frank Meyer Field in San Andreas. The two spoke about the new generation of Calaveras soccer players, Mother Lode League play starting in December and the new home field.

Guy Dossi: There’s no question that last season was a tough one. You guys didn’t know for such a long time if you’d even have a season and when you did, it was only eight games. And on top of that, you couldn’t play here at the high school and had to play your home games at Toyon Middle School. How much were you looking forward to having a normal season again without many of those distractions?

Rob Leetham: We were very much excited about hopefully playing a regular season and so far, so good. Last year was a tough year, but the one positive is we had so many young players on our varsity team who got great varsity experience. They grew up last year playing varsity and now here they are and it’s more natural for them.

GD: I was watching the game tonight and honestly, I didn’t know many of the players. For years, there seemed to be a core group of guys. There was Bennie and Garrett Hesser, Andrew Celli, Jamie Espiritu, Allan Ramos and a few other guys who seemed like they were always around. Now, it’s almost a whole new crop of players. Does it kind of feel like a new generation of Calaveras players out on the field?

RL: It does. I’m so grateful for those guys who you mentioned for their leadership and the example that they set for this younger group coming up. We miss those guys. They really meant so much to our program and are also outstanding young men off the field. Yes, I feel like the torch has been passed and we have a new generation.

GD: Unlike last year, there’s a preseason this year. What are you looking to accomplish before league play begins?

RL: We haven’t spent much time in practice working on corner kicks or set plays. We’ve just really worked on getting the offense to click. Once we get that going, we add the set pieces and things like that later. That’s what we’ve really worked on this offseason.

GD: Speaking of Mother Lode League play, the league season begins this year on Dec. 14. You guys play Sonora and Argonaut and then don’t play again until after the Christmas break in early 2022. How do you feel about having league play begin in December and then having a break before your return to play in 2022?

RL: In all honesty, I’m just excited we are playing again and playing regular soccer on our home field. We’ll play whenever they tell us to play. It’s just such a great feeling to be playing. It’s a little concerning because we’ll have a big break, but we told the guys that we are going to give them time off when we can, but we still need to work over that break. We are just excited to be out here again.

GD: One of the odd things about the short eight-game spring season was that you guys didn’t play an official game against Bret Harte. Those games are always really competitive and a lot of fun. Are you looking forward to playing your county rivals again?

RL: We are definitely looking forward to it, but are a little weary of Bret Harte. I think they are like us; they’ve grown up. They’ve got a lot of young guys who have played together and now they are older and I think they are going to be a very tough team. I’m really excited to have the rivalry start up again.

GD: And lastly, tonight was your first game on the new field here at Calaveras. How nice is it to not only be back playing games on the campus again, but playing on such a beautiful field?

RL: It’s wonderful. As we are talking, I’m looking over your shoulder and looking at the big ‘C’ in the middle of the field instead of the ‘T’ at Toyon last year. What a beautiful field. I don’t know how it all came to be and who did what, but we are sure grateful to whoever was involved in putting this field out here for us.

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