In a lot of ways, it was a perfect solution -- match up athletic director Bryan Stephens with the Northeastern boys' soccer team.

After all, Stephens had coached the Bobcats through many successful campaigns, including four division titles and a York-Adams League crown in 2002, before accepting the AD position at the school seven years ago.

The district and Stephens sought out a replacement for former coach Bryan Hayes, who resigned after last season. The position was posted for more than a month without a single interested applicant.

That spurred an idea in Stephens' head. Why not attempt a comeback to the coaching ranks?

The more he thought about it, the more it made sense.

"With my soccer background, and knowing what we needed to do, I had a thought about it," he said. "So I talked to my wife about it and talked to the administration about it and they all agreed and said, 'hey, let's give it a shot.'"

So far it appears that Stephens' presence has helped begin a turnaround. After the team compiled a 4-28 record over the previous two years, the Bobcats needed just four games this year to match that total.

"When you see the West Yorks, the Susquehannocks, the York Suburbans on the schedule ... even Kennard-Dale, Eastern, Dover, the norm has been that they really took it to us," Stephens said. "So it's getting over that hurdle mentally that we can compete."


Even after recent setbacks to perennial York-Adams Division II rivals York Suburban and West York this week, the Bobcats are still firmly in contention to make a run for a postseason berth.

The players almost universally credit the return of Stephens as a key in their resurgence.

"I think it's our coaching change," senior Jeremy Weibley said. "We had a season back in middle school where we were like 2-8 and coach Stephens came in and we went 8-2 the next year. And this is the same thing here. He has us in the right formations and we have the right guys in at all times. And it's just working out."

Stephens understands that he doesn't have many true soccer-only types on his team. Instead he has a core of solid athletes who have had success in other sports, such as baseball, basketball and volleyball.

So, to make life simpler for his club, he's made the offensive and defensive schemes less complex -- especially the defensive schemes.

"They ran a lot of zone (last year) and we do a lot of man," Stephens said. "The big thing for us is that we don't have a lot of soccer players, but we do have good athletes. So we want to make it as simple as possible, and man-to-man seems to help them focus. They see their man and they focus and they know who they need to focus on."

Weibley, who has tallied two goals and two assists so far for the Bobcats, credits his coach for helping to motivate and focus the club on a daily basis.

"The chemistry is better and the morale is up," Weibley said. "He just has us ready for each game and I think he's the main factor for why we're doing so well."

He's even inspired the team to set their goals much higher as well.

"We actually had a meeting at the beginning of the year to set goals for the team," Weibley said. "We want to win the division title and beat York Suburban and West York, because they've beat up on us the past few years."

-- Reach Ryan Vander sloot sports@yorkdis