KINGSBURG - Steve Vargas had been looking to coach high school soccer. He found a position just miles from where he grew up.
A native of Selma that went to Reedley High and had family in Kingsburg, Vargas takes over the Kingsburg boys soccer program after coaching travel soccer in the area.
So far this season, the team is off to a 1-4 start but Vargas sees potential in a team he wants to have a pressing, defensive mentality.
“The kids have been really receptive to me and my philosophies,” Vargas said. “So far, they've been doing really well.
While the record may not show it, Kingsburg has already posted a win against Farmersville, which in recent years has been a powerhouse that is just a few years removed from being in the top 10 in the nation.
Vargas said he wants his players to focus on defense and taking away possession from opposing teams and to control it themselves.
“What we're preaching is we want to win the ball in the first five seconds,” Vargas said. “That's something teams around the world try to do. We want to move our feet and play hard-nosed defense.”
While the team is short on returners, Vargas said new players to the team have are already playing key roles and will continue to as the season goes on.
“There are players that weren't in the system before that have all stepped up,” Vargas said. “They've all bought in.”
Vargas did point to three returners that will be key and are the team's captains.
Vargas called senior goalkeeper Henry Wildes arguably the best player on the team.
“His presence in the box is exceptional,” Vargas said. “He makes saves that you really don't see. He's always the first there. He's just a great kid and everything you'd want in a keeper.”
Senior Josh Lopez has been converted from a defender to a forward/attacking midfielder.
“From the moment I stepped on campus, he's been the kid that shows up every day, works his butt off and has the skill to go along with it,” Vargas said.
Sophomore Carlos Antonio has already took a leading role as well.
“He's shown to be our best mind,” Vargas said. “He sees and understands the game extremely well for his age. He's a small kid but he anticipates the game so well. He played a lot bigger than he is.”
Vargas said the first goal for the team is to elevate the program. With him seeing the success of the girls team last year in winning a Section title, he sees no reason why the Vikings' boys team can't do the same. But first, there's the Central Sequoia League.
“We're going to be a program that is about winning league,” he said. “It's been a long time since Kingsburg has been competitive in league. People are already starting to come out and support the guys. They're starting to have soccer fever at Kingsburg.”