Josue Negron always knew there was a possibility that he’d someday become the head soccer coach at Garden City High School.
After all, he was a GCHS graduate and former soccer player himself and then tutored under his father, Joaquin Padilla, who had been the original and only boys team coach while also taking on the reins of the girls program in its early years.
So when his father determined it was time to hang up his coaching whistle, Negron was offered and accepted the position to become the new Buffs’ soccer coach.
In his first year at the program’s helm, Negron inherits a core group of returners from a team that posted a 12-6-0 record in 2018 and reached the Class 6A regional championship game before falling to Manhattan that would have put them into the Elite Eight of the state tournament bracket.
“I think we have a strong group of front line players who have a good amount of experience,” said Negron of his eight returning starters from that squad. “But after that, we’re awfully young. We have a good group of seniors and we have some talented, untested freshmen, but not too many players from the sophomore and junior classes.”
The Buffs will have to replace their two graduated goalkeepers, too, with sophomore Daniel Zamaripa and senior Josue Aparicio battling for playing time, with both likely to see action in the early part of the season, Negron said.
Returning starters include center back Jairo Carrillo, right back Moses Lares, center mid-fielders Rodrigo Oropeaza and brothers Hassan and Hussein Ismael, and Bryan Tamao and left winger Leo Hernandez.
“We lack some size and physicality, but I think our speed will be one of our biggest strengths,” Negron said. “We’ve gotten better during training. Our young kids just need to gain some experience, but given time they are going to be really, really good.”
The Buffs were slated to open their season at the always tough Wichita South Titan Classic on Labor Day, with the eight-team bracketed tournament continuing on Sept. 4 and 7. The Buffs were to open against Maize High at 11 a.m. on Sept. 2 and then would face either Wichita-Kapaun Mt. Carmel or Wichita Northwest in the semis or a consolation bracket game on Sept. 4 at either 4 p.m. or 6 p.m.
With some expected early-season bumps, the Buffs may see the biggest improvement about mid-season, Negron said.
“We may not hit our stride until the middle part of the schedule,” Negron said. “It will be a learning year, and then for the next couple of years I think we have a chance to be really good. This year, it’s just trial by fire.”
During the decade of assisting Padilla, Negron was part of a program that won 193 matches, captured seven WAC titles and four regional championships.
Following his graduation from Garden City High School, Negron attended Dodge City Community College and then Kansas Wesleyan University in Salina. He then served six years in the U.S. military. He holds several soccer licenses from U.S. Soccer, NSCAA, Coerver and has been a part of the ODP soccer staff in Kansas.
He and his wife of 14 years, Andrea, have four children, Joshua (13), Olivia (12), Emma (8) and Sophia (4).
Becoming the Buffs head coach is a dream come true for Negron.
“We moved to Garden City from Fort Scott when I was young, so having been a part of this program for so many years, it means a lot to take over for my dad. And it means a lot to him as well.”
Negron said he was proud of the quality of individuals who play in the program, citing their Garden City community “blue collar” work ethic.
“Coach (Padilla) comes by every day and asks how things are going, so he still has a lot of interest in the program,” Negron said.
The Buffs home schedule includes games against Hays (Sept. 12), Liberal (Sept. 19), Dodge City (Oct. 3), Great Bend (Oct. 10) and Hays-Thomas More Prep (Oct. 21). Home games have been moved back to 5 p.m. starting times for junior varsity and approximately 6:30 p.m. for varsity games. All home games will be at Buffalo Stadium.