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Downs is up for Wildcats' challenge

Former player takes on boys soccer program at Williamsport High

Former player takes on boys soccer program at Williamsport High

May 12, 2008|By DAN KAUFFMAN

Chris Downs is proving that you can go home again.

Downs, a 1992 graduate of Williamsport High School, where he played in goal for the Wildcats boys soccer team, will take over as the program's head coach beginning this fall.

"It's something I've wanted for a long time. To be back coaching again is nice," said Downs, who previously coached St. James' varsity team from 2002 to 2006. "I felt like I had done all I could do with St. James' program. I'm getting a chance to coach at Williamsport and be involved with Stan (Stouffer) again. It was just the right time and everything came together."

Stouffer coached Downs during his junior and senior seasons with the Wildcats. He currently serves as Williamsport's athletic director.

"In 1990, I came back to coaching and we went 5-7 that year," Stouffer said. "We had to play Clear Spring (in the playoffs), they were undefeated and there was an article about their so-called "Iron Curtain" defense. That provided a little bit of bulletin board material for us. The article didn't say a word about Williamsport, and our guys took offense to that.

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"We scored early in second half, and to make a long story short, with 30 minutes left, we would get the ball out to the midfield stripe but could never get it past there. Clear Spring would get the ball, put it in our penalty box, build up the attack and just shot against our defense, and Chris stopped everything coming his way. I kept looking at the watch thinking, 'This has to end, I can't take much more of this,' but we won. That's the type of mental toughness and intangibles that, either you have it or you don't. That's what I remember most about Chris, is that particular game."

Stouffer assisted Downs at St. James for two seasons, and Downs said he gets a lot of his coaching style from his former coach.

"With him, you always knew where you stood," Downs said. "I just learned the team concept from him. (The game against Clear Spring) was the day I learned how important team unity was, and that if you put your heads together, you can accomplish anything no matter the circumstances. He continues to be a positive influence and a mentor."

Downs hopes to employ an attacking style at Williamsport, but said he'll adapt to the talent he has and try something else if needed.

"I want to play a high-pressure, ball-control style, but you also have to take your personnel into consideration," Downs said. "I watched Williamsport play three times last year, and all signs point to us being able to play the way I want to play. Getting them to buy into the team concept is what they need. There's a lot of individual talent there, it's turning individual play into the team concept."

"There's no doubt in my mind Chris will adopt the ball-control, short passing game, and they won't put it in the air a lot," Stouffer said. "That's the system he grew up in. He knows all possession is important, and he's going to demand of the kids that they possess the ball."

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