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Boys soccer: Lincoln learning to adjust on the fly

It was only one year ago that the Lincoln County boys soccer team was runner-up in the 45th District tournament and a semifinalist in the 12th Region tournament.

Now the Patriots are mired in an 0-3-1 streak, and they head into tonight’s district matchup with Danville sporting a 3-5-2 record.

So what has changed so dramatically?

There’s the loss of 13 players from last year’s team, including 10 seniors. And there was also the resignation of coach Terry Montgomery in late July, forcing Lewis Cummins to move from assistant to head coach. He’s the program’s third head coach in as many years.

“The kids know me, I’ve coached them in middle school, so they know me. So in that, the transition has been OK,” Cummins said. “Our game plans, the former coach’s and mine, may be a little different.

“The transition has been OK, we’re just young.”

The Patriots 16-man roster is half freshmen, and their starting lineup has four ninth graders. That youth has shown up in many of their losses — including a 5-1 loss at Boyle County and an 8-0 loss at Mercer County last week. But Cummins is preaching the improvement leading to a light at the end of the tunnel.

While teams with new coaches and new rosters normally have an entire offseason to adjust and learn, the Pats are doing it while the season is in full swing and the games count. There was very little time before their August 16 opener to learn Cummins’ system and for the freshmen to become acclimated with their new, increased roles.

“We’re tweaking things as we go,” Cummins said. “In the first half (against Boyle) we played one formation and then in the second half, we played one we had never practiced. So we’re just continually tweaking. We’ll keep tweaking until the end.”

One of those freshmen happens to be Cummins’ son, Trey, who is second on the team with 11 goals and tied for the team lead with five assists. Teams are beginning to pay Trey Cummins the ultimate sign of respect and checking him everywhere he goes on the field.

Junior Jacob Baird leads the team with 12 goals and five assists. The Pats have two seniors, two sophomores and four juniors on their roster.

“You don’t want to say we’re playing for next year,” coach Cummins said, “but you’re getting your experience for and it’s going to help next year.”

With nine games left on the schedule, there’s no telling how many wins and losses will pop up on the Pats record this year. There are bound to be at least a few more losses, so it’s up to Cummins to keep the younger classes encouraged, engaged and coming back for more next year through a challenging transition.

“We’re talking about constantly keeping your head up,” he said. “When we came into it, we knew we were going to take some lumps. We had three out of the eight players who had varsity playing time last year. When you only have three players, you know you’re going to take your lumps.

“Just keeping their head up. You’re going to make mistakes; learn and keep your head up.”

Follow Jeremy Schneider on Twitter @jschneideramn