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Coach Smith, South

Even before the season began, Brian Smith knew that there something special about this year’s South High boys soccer team.

The first-year Rebels coach could see it in his players’ attitudes and commitment to win.

Under the guidance of Smith, the BVarsity Boys Soccer Coach of the Year, South did a lot of winning this past year — including the Central Section Division III championship game.

“We had a meeting back in August when I first started at South,” Smith said. “We discussed my expectations. Then we sat down and I asked them what their expectations were of me. From that point on I knew had a special group of young kids.”

No. 9-seeded South made an improbable run through the playoffs, capped off by a 2-1 win over Fresno High in the title game.

Along the way the Rebels, whose top three players were all sophomores, knocked off top-seeded Selma and No. 4 Tulare-Mission Oak.

Even though South was always the underdog and had to play all four of its playoff games on the road, Smith wasn’t surprised his team was able to win the section championship.

“We knew what type of team that we had, and we knew the opponents that we were going to come up against,” Smith said “We felt that we had the upper hand.”

The Rebels, who finished the year 17-8-5, out-scored their four playoff opponents by a combined 9-3.

The section championship is the first in program history.

Smith, who served as Ridgeview’s head coach for six years before coming to South, feels extremely positive about the future of the Rebels program.

South returns nine of 11 starters next year.

“It’s very exciting,” Smith said.