Juan Moreno and Will Barnes, the senior captains of the squad currently ranked No. 6 in Class 5A, go about their business in completely opposite ways.

Just ask the rest of the team.

“Would you say I yell a lot as captain?” Barnes asked a passing teammate at practice recently.

The response went something along the lines of, “Are you kidding me?” Yelling, the teammate says, is part of the job.

But Barnes wasn’t quite so sure.

“I yell a lot, but I try to lead by example,” Barnes said. “Juan is kind of quieter.”

According to his teammates, Moreno, an attacking midfielder who scored three times and added an assist in the Bearcats’ recent 9-0 pasting of Athens, is the type that leads mostly by example — an assessment with which Moreno agreed.

“Most of us are seniors, so they know the routine,” Moreno reasoned. “And those that don’t know, we tell them how it needs to be.”

That kind of straight talk seems to be working. Though their overall record stands at 5-5-2, the Bearcats improved to 2-0 in Section 8 play with the win over Athens. Through two Section matches, they’ve scored 14 times while conceding none.

Barnes, the team’s sweeper, was recently tasked with organizing that stout defense. Previously, Barnes had played in the midfield, though he said the change suits him just fine.

“He’s put me in all kinds of positions,” Barnes said of head coach John Drake’s decision to shuffle the back line. “He’s trying to do a few things with our defense. It seems to be working pretty good with me at sweeper and Andrew Arbet at stopper.

“Sweeper is fun because you’re controlling the whole team, you’re telling everyone where to go,” he added. “But I wish there was maybe more physical contact, like in midfield.”

Moreno, too, has faced learning a new position this season. Formerly a right-winger, Drake decided to move Moreno to central midfield to give him more chances to make plays.

“I like it because I get the ball more, and I have a better view of the field,” Moreno explained. “I like having the ball on my feet and moving the ball around.”

In fact, the game’s fast pace is part of what Moreno said draws him to the game. Moreno, a native of Mexico who moved to Cullman when he was nine, said he admires the playing style of FC Barcelona’s Ronaldinho and Lionel Messi and Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo — players that rely on ball possession and movement.

“I just love the way they play,” Moreno said. “I like the way they move the ball around.

“I can be a fast-paced and slow-paced player, lots of passing, lots of possession.”

Moreno said he enjoys watching professional leagues in both Europe and the Americas, gathering tips on how to improve his game.

“I like to watch a lot of leagues, the Mexican, Italian, English, Spanish — major leagues, because you learn a lot from those games,” he said.

“In different countries, you play at a different pace,” Moreno added. “Here, you play at a medium pace. In Mexico, you play at a slow pace. In England, they play fast. Everyone has their own way of playing. It’s fun to watch a team from the U.S. play a team from Mexico, because of the different styles they play.”

Barnes said his style is similar to Moreno’s — though he learned a few things as the place kicker on Cullman’s football team this past season.

“I play a little more physical after playing football (last season),” Barnes said. “I pass it a whole lot. I don’t hold on to the ball for a long time, I like to distribute it.”

And, according to Barnes, that coin has a flip side.

“Playing soccer definitely helped my football career,” he said. “I have stronger legs because I play soccer. And, I kick soccer style.”

Despite his dabbling in football, Barnes said he still loves soccer.

“It’s fun because once you’re into the game, you stay in the game. It’s a game of teamwork,” he said. “It’s not like other sports where you wait around for something to happen next.”

Both Barnes and Moreno started playing soccer at a young age — Barnes in AYSO leagues in America, and Moreno back in Mexico.

“My uncle and my cousins would play, and I just decided to play with them,” Moreno said about how he got into the game. At the age of 12, he joined an AYSO team in the States, though he remained fluently in Spanish. During his Junior year, Moreno played club ball for the Huntsville Kicks, a team Barnes also played with for a year.

“I think it’s a real good program. Every kid does it,” Barnes said of AYSO and other youth soccer leagues. “It helps soccer grow in America. I don’t know if we get better players because of it, but it makes soccer more popular.”

“I guess it’s good because you get more into the game,” Moreno agreed. “You do it in the offseason. It prepares you more for the school season and getting ready to play.”

Though he’s quiet out on the pitch, Moreno’s teammates are comfortable with him in a leadership role. That’s because last year, as a junior, Moreno was named captain ahead of several senior players.

“Yeah,” he answered when asked whether the decision surprised him. “There were a lot of seniors and I thought we would have all seniors (as captains).” But after a vote, Moreno won the captaincy and led the Bearcats to a second consecutive appearance at the state final four in Huntsville. “I wasn’t expecting to be captain my junior year.”

Barnes said he was honored to receive the captaincy this year, though he thought he might have a shot.

“I wasn’t that surprised, but I was surprised in a way, because there are 12 or 13 seniors on the team this year,” Barnes said. “I figured Juan would get it because he was captain last year. There are several guys who could have gotten it.”

After his captaincy is up, Barnes said it’s unlikely he’ll play soccer at the next level.

“I think this (high school) will be it, because I want to focus on other things,” he said. “Soccer is fun but I don’t want to take it too serious.”

Moreno, a player with collegiate potential, said he’ll take things as they come.

“I’d love to,” Moreno said about playing soccer after high school. “It depends on how things go. I’ve gone to tryouts in Montgomery at Faulkner, and they went pretty good.”

As for a third consecutive trip to Huntsville to play in the final four, Barnes was optimistic.

“I think we’ll make it. How we do there depends on how we show up” he said, predicting a matchup with a Class 5A powerhouse like John Carroll. “We can beat them if everyone plays well. I think we have a chance to win state.”

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