Kicking reputation; Spence using ability to guide Eagles into contention

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, February 29, 2012
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GETTING KICKS IN - After helping the Decatur football team to the playoffs, Taylor Spence has the soccer team off to an unbeaten start in District 9-4A play with his standout play at defender. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

No matter the season, Taylor Spence has built a reputation with his feet.

In the fall, he helped boot the Eagles to the playoffs as an all-district placekicker. Months later, the senior has Decatur soccer in position for the program’s second postseason berth.

“I’ve got a strong leg, and it’s what I’m known for,” Spence said.

Spence’s strong leg notched a pair of assists off free kicks in the Eagles’ 2-1 win over Wichita Falls Friday to put them in second place in District 9-4A. Decatur is unbeaten in the league after three games.

“All the work we’ve put in has started to show,” Spence said. “In my fourth year, we finally beat a team we’ve never beat.”

Spence has seen the highs and the lows of the Decatur soccer program that started when he was in seventh grade.

As a sophomore, he helped the Eagles to their first playoff appearance. Last year, he fought through a tough season in which the team failed to register a win.

“I’ve been around guys that were good and others that needed work,” Spence said.

Spence, a veteran club player, has played all over the field for the Eagles.

“He’s been a big part of the team the last four years,” said Decatur coach Nick Stokes. “As a freshman we knew he was a special player while playing center midfield weighing 115 pounds.

“As a sophomore, he grew and matured as a player and was a big part of us making the playoffs.”

Last season, he moved to the Eagles’ back line and became an all-district defender. It’s the position he’s played for most of his club career, and it allows him to take advantage of his aggressive style.

“As a defender, you’ve got to be strong-minded and be aggressive,” Spence said. “You’ve got to be a leader, and I’ve grown in my leadership ability.”

FANCY FEET - Decatur's Taylor Spence notched a pair of assists Friday in the Eagles' win over Wichita Falls. Spence, a senior, has helped Decatur to a 1-0-2 start in District 9-4A. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

From his center spot in the defense, Spence is in charge, Stokes said.

“He runs the show,” Stokes said. “His communication on the field is critical. They can’t always hear me.

“It’s very much like having an assistant coach [on the field]. He’s a four-year starter, and everyone looks up to him and follows his lead.”

As important as that leadership is Spence’s ability to make clean tackles on the back line, get steals and make stops. Stokes said Spence leads the team in stops.

“It seems like anytime something bad is about to happen, he steps in and stops it,” Stokes said. “His skill and experience always have him in the right spot.

“Almost every night, he’s the best player on the field. He’s definitely the best defender in the district. Especially as much as we work him, I guarantee he has the most stops in the district.”

As a defender, Spence gets few shots on goal. But he does have four assists.

“Even when I was playing midfield, I was looking to distribute the ball,” he said.

Spence does handle the team’s free kicks and corners. His ability to send the ball deep with precision led to the two goals against Wichita Falls.

“Anytime there’s a free kick or stoppage, we’ve got a chance to score with Taylor,” Stokes said.

Spence’s brother, Ryan, was a second-team NCAA Division II All-American this year at Midwestern State in Wichita Falls.

“Soccer runs in the family,” the younger Spence said.

Along with placekicking. Ryan kicked two years before Taylor took over. Taylor hit all 59 of his extra-point attempts this fall along with four field goals.

After high school, he plans to attend Midwestern. He’s given some thought to attempting to walk on in soccer or football.

“I’m still undecided,” Spence said.

He has plenty to kick around before making that decision.

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