Last fall, Dustin Schiller found himself in an unlikely two-way scenario at Baldwin High.
While his fleet were helping one program continue its legacy of success, they also kept busy kick-starting another. The dichotomy allowed him to see both sides of the sports coin - the state-championship vibe of Baldwin's powerful boys cross country team compared with the first-year struggles of the Bulldogs' new boys soccer program.
This fall, Schiller reluctantly gave up the running shoes while keeping his cleats. The result has been a breakout offensive season, not just for the junior forward, but the Bulldogs as well, who head into Class 4-3-2-1A regional play with an 11-4-1 record and realistic shot at reaching the state quarterfinals.
You open regional play today against Seabury Academy as the third seed among 18 teams. How do you feel about the way this year has gone and the success you have been able to have?
As a team we've been playing really good together, and our chemistry has been really good this year. No one has enemies on the team; we all get along pretty good. Our defense plays good, and when they don't, our offense usually steps it up, and vice-versa.
Based on seedings, Baldwin is going to be the favorite to win today and Thursday, which would put you in the state quarterfinals. What goes through your mind as you prepare for a possible deep run in the playoffs?
I haven't really thought that much about it. I'm more worried about (today's) game and, more importantly, Thursday's. We have split with Louisburg and lost to them the last (meeting), so we have to really focus on that game. Our defense has to step it up because Louisburg's a really good offensive team, and they push the ball really good.
This is only the second season Baldwin has fielded a varsity boys soccer team. Are you surprised at all you've been this successful this quickly?
Kind of. Our coaches and our fields are new and everything, but a lot of these kids have been playing soccer their whole life. They've been playing in Lawrence, and I played in Olathe, actually. And we have Fernando (Chuery), the foreign-exchange student, who played his whole life in Brazil.
What were your thoughts when you found out prior to last year that Baldwin finally was going to have a soccer program?
I was really happy, along with the other kids on the team who played soccer and didn't have any other sports to play in the fall. I just ran cross country just because I didn't have anything else to do and wanted to stay in condition for my other sports, basketball and tennis. When I heard soccer, I was real excited, and I started practicing every day and getting prepped up for soccer. And I know other kids that practiced with me a couple of times just on our own.
Last year you ran cross country and played soccer during the same fall season. Baldwin has experienced huge success in cross country, but is just starting out in soccer. What made you decide to give soccer your sole attention?
Actually, it was a really hard choice. I actually had ran this summer a lot and was ready to do cross country also along with soccer this year. Then I thought about last year, I got a stress fracture from doing both, and it was too much on me. So I just decided to do soccer and not cross country this year, because I thought we would do good, like how we're doing this year, in soccer. I love the game of soccer a lot more than I love running cross country.
Most people look at soccer as a very low-scoring sport. But Baldwin has scored 56 goals in 16 games - an average of 3.5 per game. Is it exciting to be able to play that style of game and put a lot of goals on the board instead of playing 1-0 games all the time?
Yeah. Especially with being a forward. You like scoring more and more goals. It's real exciting for the parents. They like seeing goals, and the fans like coming out and seeing goals. But sometimes the goals are needed because our defense lets in some goals. Usually, the defense does a good job. They keep the ball out of the net usually.
Do you do something differently as a team that allows you to score more? Or is it just a matter of the talent that you have?
Our skeleton offense system is pretty good. Our forwards ... (the coaches) have been working with us a lot in our offense with passing the ball and controlling it in the offensive side of the field. Me and Fernando and some of the outside mids work really good on the offensive end, and we have really good communication even without physically communicating - just knowing where each other is.
You have 16 goals, but also 13 assists. Which part of the game do you like better - scoring yourself, or helping someone else do it?
I've always kind of been an assist person. Usually I only average three or four goals a season. This year I stepped it up and scored a lot. That's been really fun, but I still like getting someone else scoring and getting a lot of assists to other people and having them being able to celebrate with me.
How much has Fernando Chuery and his Brazilian soccer background helped your game?
It's really big. Me and him practiced a lot, and just the passion that he has for the game is so big that it kind of gets me going sometimes. The excitement when I see him make a good move, my adrenaline goes up, and I want to play harder and harder.
Should you be able to win a couple of more games, do you think that will help boost the interest in soccer at the school even more for future years?
Yeah, if we get far, more people will start coming out to the games, and hopefully more kids will come out and want to actually play soccer. And hopefully younger kids will play soccer, and we'll have a bigger system of teams formed and have a nicer field out here.