Brian Killips crunched the numbers during the offseason and came up with a big figure.
The Evans High School boys soccer coach determined the class he graduated last year was responsible for 98 percent of the Knights' goals scored last season and for nearly every goal scored the past two seasons.
"I didn't know what to expect going into this year," Killips said. "I knew we'd struggle to score goals."
The Knights have found production from an unlikely source: a pair of defensive-minded players.
Senior Bryce Cartledge plays sweeper and junior teammate Joe Rizner serves as a marking back.
The two have locked down opponents, but also lead the Knights in scoring, often because of their success on set pieces.
In trying to explain their connection, Cartledge and Rizner showed what makes them so effective on the field, continuing the other's train of thought and sharing similar ideas.
"It goes from my foot to his head, usually," Cartledge said.
Added Rizner: "That's the way we like it."
Killips has found a lot to like during his team's start.
The Knights were 7-0 in Region 3-AAAA after beating Harlem 4-1 on March 20. Evans will be host to Hephzibah on Friday to end its regular season region schedule.
Barring a slip-up, the Knights should claim the region title.
The Knights' biggest win was its first region game Feb. 20, when they beat county rival Lakeside 1-0 on penalty kicks. There are no 3-AAAA subregions this year and no region playoff, meaning Evans had to beat the Panthers only once.
"We played as hard as we could," Cartledge said. "We knew that was going to be a make-or-break game, that if we did good in that game, that would foreshadow what our season was going to be like."
Cartledge and Rizner said the remainder of the Knights' region schedule has required they focus on the teams that would be easy to overlook.
Evans' undefeated start included winless Butler, Josey, Glenn Hills and Cross Creek.
As upperclassmen, Cartledge and Rizner said their goal has been to keep their teammates sharp .
"We try to keep our mind in the right place before the game," Cartledge said. "And then while we're playing, we try to pass and do what we would against a good team. We try to spread them out, help everybody know what their job is."
Cartledge expects to miss Evans' region finale Friday against Hephzibah. The senior has been asked to guest play in San Diego, Calif., for the Honolulu Bulls soccer club in the Temecula Toyota College Showcase.
Cartledge said the tournament should draw more than 100 college coaches. He said he hasn't decided if he wants to play college soccer, but the event will give him needed exposure in a great locale.
"I'm looking forward to California," he said.
Rizner is a year away from needing to make a decision on his college future. He plays goalkeeper for his Arsenal club team and said he would like to play college soccer if it doesn't interfere with his pursuit of an engineering degree.
Rizner and Cartledge stay busy with the sport all year. But their focus, at least for the next few days, is securing a region title.
"When we play our game, we connect really well as a team," Rizner said. "That just contributes to the success we've had this year."
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