The boys soccer season is making an otherwise active and involved Central senior just a little bit busier.
James Penney, a captain on the Chargers squad, is now well into his third year on the varsity squad and his first as a full-time starter.
Just finding time to get information on the center midfielder is difficult, as it’s divvied up between commitments to a nationally-recognized show choir, volunteer work and assisting with the community’s needs.
Penney’s involvement is indicative, also, of the commitment he and the Chargers are making toward another deep run into the playoffs as they did last season.
Following last Friday’s 1-0 win over Carroll, Central pushed their way into fourth place in the district race. Central was to take on Keller on Tuesday, where a win would boost them ahead of the Indians into the third-place spot.
The game on Tuesday will be the first appearance against Keller for Penney, as he was fulfilling a commitment during the first matchup. He was involved in a Voices of Central show choir event, where he has been a member for four years.
Penney said the Chargers are singing an optimistic tune after making a five-round playoff run last year, the longest such venture into the postseason the successful program has made.
“We didn’t make the playoffs for the first time in school history my sophomore year,” Penney said. “We came back last year and went to the regional semis and lost to the eventual state champion, Coppell.
“Because of that experience, even during the first week of school, people were so fired up,” Penney said. “It’s our senior season and everyone has been so fired up.”
Penney said he’s been playing soccer since the age of six and said he “just likes the feel of it.”
Being a member of a team sport may be appealing seems to fit Penney.
“When you play with your friends and play well, there’s something about that connection and teamwork that can’t be topped,” Penney said.
That same mindset may help explain his other involvement such as being a volunteer at Texas Health Alliance Hospital in the Emergency Department and his work on a recent canned food drive to benefit the Community Storehouse.
“At the hospital, I help make sure patients and their families are comfortable and do restocking in the department,” Penney explained. “The canned food drive is part of a friend, Dominic Ross’ Eagle Scout project.”
And don’t think the “choir-boy” is a slight soprano.
The 6-2, 180-pounder has learned to play a physical game on the field.
“A coach once told me I was playing too wimpy,” Penney said. “He told me I play like Barbie and I took ownership of that. I tell myself before each game, that at least one time tonight, I’m going to (be physical) with a kid and go out and win the ball, but of course, no fouls.”
Taking ownership and leadership of the team is a common ability among the other captains, too, Penney said.
“Before the Haltom game, Coach (Aaron Cottrell) said the coaches are not going to say a word until the whistle blows,” Penney said. “The captains took the reins unless we said ‘Omaha,’” he said. “We’re pretty vocal and we took over during the pre-game and warm-ups.”
Cottrell feels quite comfortable leaving the team’s leadership up to Penney and the other captains.
“He’s a leader who treats everyone with respect and receives the same respect,” Cottrell said of Penney.
This year’s Chargers have already hurdled obstacles including the departure of three players.
“There’s always something that happens that’s unexplainable,” Penney said. “But we knew from the start that we can be district champs and can make a long run. We can play amazing one week and not finish and make dumb mistakes later. But this will be the identity of the team. We feel like a tie is a loss. Now that we know our mistakes and misfortunes we can fight back.”
Penney plans to attend UT Dallas on an academic scholarship and major in biomedical engineering on the way to medical school. He’d like to play soccer in college, as well, even if it involves taking the walk-on route.