Mina Shahata had an opportunity he couldn’t pass up.
Nonetheless, the Tallmadge boys soccer team should be in good hands.
That’s because Shahata’s own flesh and blood is now the headman.
David Shahata takes over the Blue Devils, who finished 8-7-1 overall and 1-4-1 in the always ruthless American Conference last fall.
Tallmadge’s season ended with a 3-0 loss to American Conference rival Revere in a Kent Division II sectional title game. By the way, the Minutemen wound up being the Division II state runners-up.
The 22-year-old Shahata spent last year as the team’s junior varsity coach. He also led Akron North’s JV squad in 2017.
David’s older brother, Mina, guided the Blue Devils to a 40-35-1 record during his five-year tenure. Mina, who led Tallmadge to the Canton Division II district title game in 2017, is now an assistant coach with the University of Mount Union (Alliance) men’s soccer team.
"Coaching with my brother definitely was enjoyable," said David, a 2016 University of Akron graduate who played soccer at Akron North. "I’m excited for him and I’m super excited for this opportunity. I get a chance to really push the boys to the next level."
David didn’t need to introduce himself to most of his varsity players. That’s because several junior varsity players will acclimate themselves to the varsity level this season.
They will have some big shoes to fill. Seven former Blue Devil standouts graduated in the spring.
The most noteworthy departures were twin brothers Justin and Jason Betts, who were both midfielders, along with forward Nick Hussing. Justin is playing soccer at Malone University in Canton and Jason is playing at Penn State University Erie, The Behrend College.
Justin finished with 50 career goals and Jason tallied 59 career assists at Tallmadge. Hussing finished with a total of 51 career goals.
Other graduates included goalkeeper Sam Weyandt, who made 166 career saves; midfielder Eric Hussing, who is Nick’s cousin; forwards Danny Macchiarole and Dakota Miller; and defender Patrick Rotunda.
"The team is basically composed of players I coached," David said. "It’s most of my JV team. We’re going to be a lot younger this year, but the boys are really owning the things we’re teaching them. I’m really excited for them to take their opportunities and run with them. It’s a good fit."
David plans to utilize a 4-4-2 formation that will rely on keeping the ball at the Blue Devils’ feet for as long as possible.
"We have to make the ball move for us," he said. "We’re not going to be the most physical and fastest team. We’re going to go with a possession-based game and use our players to the highest capacity possible."
Leading the way will be captains Suhaib Mahameed, a senior midfielder who missed several games last season due to a leg injury; Eric Soloman and Andrew Krukemeyer, who are both junior midfielders.
"Suhaib can play almost anywhere," David said. "He’s an excellent leader. He’s an extra coach on the field and in our locker room. He’s a joy to be around.
"Eric is extremely talented. He leads by example and puts it out there 100 percent. He really pushes the guys to push themselves.
"Andrew is extremely vocal on the field. He’s always ready to serve his teammates. He knows the exact instructions we’re teaching so he can communicate with his teammates."
The rest of the senior class comprises defenders Nate Kubala and Brandon Manda. Other juniors include forwards Christian Manda, Gavin West, Will Hudak and Kenny Kuchtyak; defenders Chandler Miller and Nick Kill; and goalie Reece Parry.
The rest of the varsity/JV roster features an abundance of underclassmen. The sophomore class comprises midfielders Kobe Mahameed, who is Suhaib’s younger brother, Ben McCauley, Evan Hipkins, Rob DiSabato and Alex Kubala; defenders Ben Hudak, Nick Archer, Isaac Alberts; forwards Samuel Cortes and Benson Li; and goalie Jamyson Montgomery.
Rounding out the squad are freshmen Aaron Krukemeyer (defender), Sam Angerstien (defender), Gabe James (midfielder), Justin Rayl (forward), Cameron Kennel (forward), Vincent Marella (forward) and Max Grund (midfielder).
Sudeep Tamang will serve as David’s assistant coach. The JV coach is Chidozie Martins.
Tallmadge probably won’t have a lethal, three-headed attack like it did in previous years with the Betts’ twins and Hussing.
That’s just fine with the first-year head coach.
"Our team motto is win by serving," David said. "If you have a culture that’s unhealthy and wins lots of games, it’s not necessarily a winning season. We derive our energy to serve each other and push each other. That’s our foundation and that sets up a winning season, along with each win we add."
As always, the Blue Devils will have their hands full in the unforgiving American Conference. With traditional powerhouses such as Revere, Copley and Aurora reloading every year, Tallmadge has yet to achieve one of those signature conference victories.
David would like to change that.
"I’m one of the more competitive people I know," he said. "I definitely love to win. But I’ve been pointing their eyes to see the team-oriented portion rather than each individual.
"Our goal is to compete. We’re not going into any game thinking we can’t win."
The Blue Devils are scheduled to open their 2019 season in Stark County. Tallmadge is set to visit Canton McKinley Tuesday at Don Scott Field. Play is scheduled to begin at 7 p.m.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.