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Ozark's 'West Bluff Wall' wants to be the heart of a record-setting defense

OZARK'S JAMES NEMETI AND JAKE GARNER battle for position while chasing down a loose ball.
OZARK'S JAMES NEMETI AND JAKE GARNER battle for position while chasing down a loose ball.

Combine Ozark High School’s street address with an assist from defender Connor Cummings and the Tigers’ well-vaunted backline has a nickname that seems catchy enough to stick.

Cummings and his defensive cohorts, August McComas, Caden McGehee and Jake Garner, combine to make up the "West Bluff Wall.”

“That's off the top of my head,” Cummings said of his proposed moniker, “The Wall.”

Opponents found it hard to scale the "West Bluff Wall” last season. Ozark yielded an average of 1.3 goals allowed en route to posting nine shutouts and rolling to a 23-5 record and an undefeated run through the COC.

Cummings, McComas, McGehee and Garner return from last season’s back line McComas was an All-COC First-Team pick and Cummings a Second-Team selection.

The "West Bluff Wall” wants to go down in Ozark’s records book as being at the heart of the best Tigers defense in school history. The program’s record for lowest scoring average defensively is 0.7 by Ozark’s 2018 outfit.

“This is the year we are hoping to do it,” McComas said of breaking that record. “We want to go 0.5 or above. We have high expectations. Truthfully, we can keep anyone out of our goal.”

“I’m excited. We have a very good chance at a really good season,” Cummings said. “No one is going to score on us. We’re going to have it on lockdown.”

The defenders like their varied physical characteristics.

“Connor is our big body, I have speed and Jake and Caden are our tall guys,” McComas said. “Together we make a great back four."

McComas’ speed and determination give him the feeling every loose ball is within his grasp.

“Since I was little, I've always been one of our fastest kids,” he said. “That’s my strength, beating kids to the ball. I'm going to get there. Every long ball or every ball played, I'm like, 'That's my ball.' Any ball on the opposite side, you're going to see me run for it and I'll slide for it. I'm doing my best to get every ball out from the back.”

McComas foray as a sprinter in track last spring met his expectations. He was part of Ozark’s 4 x 200 relay that made State.

“I feel like track made me faster,” he said. “I'm excited to see how it correlates on the soccer field.”

The length of Garner and McGehee and the physical nature of Cummings figures to give the Tigers an edge for most 50-50 balls.

“My strength is big-bodying off the ball, going up in the air for 50-50s and slide-tackling,” Cummins said. ‘One of my favorite things is going up for a 50-50 battle for a ball. I’ve always been a bigger guy, so I've always liked being physical and veered toward the aggressive side of soccer, rather than trying to be quick and beat kids with speed.”

The "West Bluff Wall” will be teaming up with a new goalkeeper. Candidates at goalie include senior Deagoh Soto, junior Nick Suarez and sophomore Carson Sandgren.

“There is a lot of pressure on our back line because there is not a lot of ‘keeper experience,” McComas said. “We’re going to do our best to keep the ball out of the box and make sure no one is getting past it.”

“Our main goal is to have our 'keeper do the least amount of work possible,” Cummings said. “But I know all three of them are capable of stopping the ball if it gets past us. No matter who (coach Zack Owens) puts back there, I'm going to have trust in them. If one of us on the back line happens to make a mistake, I trust they will be right behind us.”