By Official Florida FC
One month into the season and there remain more than a dozen boys soccer teams in the Sunshine State that are undefeated. Only one, Panama City Beach Arnold, has the pleasure of knowing that as a reigning state champion they will see every opponent’s best shot every time they take the pitch.
The Marlins improved to 6-0-1 following Thursday’s 7-1 win over Navarre.
Arnold is undefeated in its last 34 matches. The Marlins are the reigning Class 4A state champions and haven’t skipped a beat this year. Arnold has outscored opponents 39-4 this season.
Heading into Thursday’s one-sided win, 11 players scored for the Marlins this season.
“We have a young, but talented group that was in the waiting,” Marlins head coach Jonathan Hammond told OfficialFloridaFC.com earlier this season. “Last year’s team, from the first player to the last player, was very talented. We had a lot of guys who were freshmen or sophomores that are stepping in this year. The way I saw them play the other night, there is a good chance for a repeat.”
Hammond is not in search of a second straight unbeaten season on the back of easy victories. He indicated he will schedule any team that will have the Marlins.
That is one reason why Arnold will travel to Mississippi later this month to play Ocean Springs High School and Gulfport High School. Ocean Springs was a state semifinalist in Mississippi’s largest classification in 2021. Gulfport was 18-3-1 and a state quarterfinalist in 2021. Gulfport is off to a 4-2 start this season.
Arnold is led by Braden Masker’s nine goals. Ben Lebdaoui is a senior and co-captain who will be relied upon in defense. Forward Quinton Hotop, midfielder Ridge Hatton and goalkeeper Logan Cooley are among the key contributors to the group that finished 27-0-2 in 2021 and are all seniors this season.
Arnold’s next game may be its stiffest challenge thus far. The Marlins host undefeated Fort Walton Beach (5-0-1) on Dec. 9.
Hammond said he and his staff are going to do everything within their power to have the players realize they will get every opponent’s best game.
“We hope that everyone else knows that we are a team that’s going to fight to the end. They better bring their best game, because they are going to get ours.”