MAHOMET — Some high school students might get burnt out while playing a sport. Might grow tired in the course of a strenuous season that occurs while the athlete is attending classes.
Eli Warren is experiencing an opposite feeling these days.
“It takes a lot out of you not being able to really play the sport,” Warren said. “But we’re just going to have to come back in the spring and be really focused.”
The Mahomet-Seymour senior and boys’ soccer standout is possibly the most important returning Bulldog for coach Jeremy Davis’ team, which is coming off a Class 2A regional championship victory last fall, the first for the Bulldogs since 2015.
Warren is one of just two athletes on last year’s News-Gazette All-Area boys’ soccer first team who still has a year of prep eligibility remaining — the other being Champaign Central’s Nate Allen — and put up 17 goals and 16 assists as part of a breakout junior campaign.
With M-S graduating nine players, including another 2019 All-Area first-team selection in Colten Brunner, Warren’s play should be integral to any success the Bulldogs experience when they’re able to take to the pitch once more.
That likely won’t be until March 2021, though, with the IHSA Board of Directors on July 29 delaying the start of the latest boys’ soccer season until Feb. 15.
“It was pretty disappointing, and I was really looking forward to the season,” Warren said. “I guess we all just have hope that the season happens in the spring now, because I don’t want it to go away as a whole.”
The summer workouts that Warren and his M-S teammates were able to engage in bore little resemblance to the last match they played, a nailbiting 3-2 loss to Morton on Oct. 29, 2019, that was decided by a Potters goal with less than six minutes remaining in regulation.
“I wouldn’t say it was normal because we couldn’t have full practices,” Warren said. “Personally, it was pretty frustrating because I like to compete and I couldn’t do that. … But we just had to stay focused and try to keep getting better in the best situation that we could.”
Warren aims to dress for his last high school basketball season as well, scheduled to take place from Nov. 16 to Feb. 13, before switching to soccer.
“I don’t think it makes me think any differently,” Warren said. “I’ve always been a big basketball guy. I don’t think it’s going to change how I play or look at the sport.”
Strength has been a paramount focus for Warren since the Bulldogs’ summer soccer workouts ended. He’s currently lifting weights five days a week in addition to occasional sprint and speed work, as well as some small-scale scrimmages with friends.
“When you’re with other people, you can help push each other,” Warren said. “My dad (Chris) and my brother (Isaac) have done a good job of holding me accountable. … That’s really helped me.”
Warren is concerned that the Bulldogs might not be able to acquire any additional IHSA postseason hardware before his prep career ends. State series events currently are not guaranteed in the revised IHSA calendar.
“It’s just hard when you don’t have that goal to go toward,” Warren said. “But I think I can find motivation to try and give every game my all.”
If nothing else, that feeling can be born from getting the opportunity to spend a little more time on the field with some of his closest soccer friends, such as fellow seniors Nathaniel Lundstrom and Logan Woodward.
“If we pull it together, we’re capable of being a really good team,” Warren said. “Me, Nate and Logan have been a strong core for a long time, so if we start working together, we can do good things.”
Colin Likas is the preps coordinator at The News-Gazette. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter at @clikasNG.