Martin Chavarria, Agustin Ortiz and Jose Cordova have shared the pitch since eighth grade.
Now midway through their final season as Bobcats, the senior trio made sure it's not the last on the field together.
The long-time teammates will continue their careers as Tigers on the Marshalltown Community College men's soccer team after all three made their official commitment Monday.
T-R PHOTO BY TYLER STRAND
Marshalltown High School seniors (from left, seated): Jose Cordova, Martin Chavarria and Agustin Ortiz each made their official commitment to the Marshalltown Community College men’s soccer team Monday. Also present are (from left, standing): MHS coach Chris Fuchsen, MCC coach Rafael Martinez and MCC assistant coach Creighton Jenness.
Each of them will sign their letters of intent at a later date, though MCC coach Rafael Martinez wanted the Bobcat seniors to be the first announced of his incoming 2014 recruiting class.
"The local talent is very important to us and they are the ones that need to lead the way," Martinez said. "One of the objectives I had when I took over the program was to recruit local talent. I felt that was something we could do a better job at.
"I thought that we had the players and good students, we just needed to open their doors and try to push them to do better so we could recruit them for MCC. They're very important for our program, and I hope that the local talent continues being important in the future."
Martinez is getting three of the area's best as he enters his fifth season at the helm. Chavarria has been one of the state's top-scoring threats over the past few years with a combined 71 goals in his MHS tenure.
The 2013 All-State second team honoree spent much of his first three seasons up front but has helped the Bobcat back line this season. With Martinez's defensive personnel already in place, the MCC coach will send Chavarria back to the forward position this fall.
"We want to utilize his talent up front," Martinez said. "He's creative and he has the talent of being in the right spot at the right time. That's something that's almost impossible to coach. He's going to have a lot of goal-scoring chances also because of the style that we play and the players that we have in the middle."
Two of those reasons Chavarria can return to his previous role are the additions of Ortiz and Cordova to the MCC backfield.
Ortiz earned All-State honorable mention last year as the Bobcats' defensive stalwart as MHS put together one of the best seasons in school history with a 16-3 mark.
"Agustin is a defensive-minded player and very versatile, he can give us a lot of different options," Martinez said.
"He can basically play anywhere in the back four positions and that makes my life a lot easier. It gives him more opportunities to contribute and make an impact."
Cordova is another versatile presence that can aid the Tiger defense or help in the midfield.
"Jose is a very balanced player both offensively and defensively, I see him excelling as a defensive center midfielder," Martinez said.
"He's very good (off-the-ball) and brings great intensity and understanding of the position. He can also play the ball forward and connect with our forwards. He will also be very important."
All three MHS seniors were impressed with the MCC program and excited for the opportunity to continue their soccer pursuits in their hometown.
"MCC has a good soccer program and it's close to home, those were the two main reasons," Ortiz said.
Ortiz and Chavarria both Central Iowa Conference Northern Division first team selections - considered Iowa Western but ultimately saw MCC as a better fit.
"(MCC) has one of the best programs community college wise," Chavarria said.
"I also looked at Iowa Western but I thought I had a better chance of playing at MCC and it's close to family."
The three Bobcats were also eager to share the pitch beyond their prep careers and enjoy a couple more years of playing in front of local fans.
"That will be great not just for us but for the whole team," Cordova said of the additional fan support at home. "It will probably get more people to attend the games."
An additional perk to staying local is the seamless transition Martinez believes the Bobcat seniors will make as Tigers with both teams employing a similar possession-oriented attack. Martinez said he, previous MHS head coach Creighton Jenness an MCC assistant, and MHS coach Chris Fuchsen all have very similar styles.
"We like to possess the ball and we like to dictate the match," Martinez said.
"We're not going to change a lot of things because their previous coaches have done a tremendous job."
The influence of that coaching tree continues through club play where Fuchsen has worked with many of his Bobcats before he took over at MHS.
"That's what we've prepared for ever since these guys were little ones, getting them ready for the next level whether it's high school or collegiate ball," Fuchsen said.
"These guys are perfect examples of what can happen when you put in hard work growing up in Marshalltown. They've been successful on the pitch and in the classroom."
Martinez has posted a record of 46-24-4 in his four years with the Tigers including three straight seasons of 12 wins or more.
MCC finished 14-4-1 last fall and gain some extra versatility with the Bobcat additions.
"With the three of them we have a lot of different options and that's key for us because we always lose players because of injuries and need to rotate because we play a lot of high-level games," Martinez said.
"Having players that can give us a lot of different looks makes us a stronger program."