Bearcats’ Wills signs to continue soccer career with Cougars
     2014-03-13      By Terry Gaston    sports@geringcitizen.com
Photo by Terry Gaston/for the Citizen - Scottsbluff High School senior Blake Wills (second from right) signs his national letter of intent on Feb. 27 to play soccer at Western Nebraska Community College during a ceremony in the SHS board room. From left are dad Dave Wills, Wills and mom Jolene Wills. 
Scottsbluff High School senior Blake Wills, on the eve of starting his final season with the Bearcats this spring, decided that the Dr. Allan C. Landers Memorial Soccer Complex will continue to be his athletic home for college.

Wills, a defender for the Bearcats, signed a national letter of intent to stay in Scottsbluff and play for Western Nebraska Community College and Cougars coach Todd Rasnic next fall.

The signing took place on Feb. 27 in the Scottsbluff High School board room.

“I think it just worked best for what I was looking for in college options,” Wills said. “It’s in my hometown, it’s an easy transition and I like the campus of WNCC. I’ve played with Todd for 10 years now and I’m thankful for that, and him being affiliated with the college team has helped a lot too.”

“Blake can bring a lot of years of playing under my system, as he alluded to, which is very helpful,” Rasnic said. “Players who instantly buy into what we’re trying to do on the field typically become better teammates to the players around them. He is always one who has tried to put team first.”

Wills has played soccer since he was 8 years old and helped start the Reccos Geckos club team along with Rasnic.

“It’s a huge plus, just knowing how he coaches and what kind of atmosphere he has to create,” Wills said of playing under Rasnic. “It’s really good to have an advantage, just knowing what the coaches expect from you.”

“He’s tough and he’s a player who is very resilient,” Rasnic said. “He never gives up and that’s been demonstrated this past year. Their club team in indoor soccer went 14-1-1 and won three out of the four tournaments they went to.

“They’ve been a team that has progressed well beyond my original expectations, and Blake has been a huge part of that. So I think he will be someone who brings that type of mentality, it’s a winning mentality, and I think he will bring that to Western Nebraska.

“There was a time in our club career where we had a little bit of a transition from him,” Rasnic said of Wills. “We had him in the goal all the time, and we didn’t have anyone else to put in there.

“We really struggled to let him out of the goal, and now that he has been out of the goal, I’ve been pretty pleased with the way he’s adapted in the field and really turned into a player that I think will be very useful at Western Nebraska.”

Wills said he does not expect an easy transition from high school to college-level soccer.

“It’s going to be hard,” Wills said of conversations he has had with Rasnic. “He’s talked to me about some possible position options. As far as starting or not, he is not for sure but he has talked to me many times about where he wants to put me, mainly at defense still.”

Scottsbluff went 10-8 last season, losing to Lexington in the District B-6 final. Scottsbluff will be seeking its first class B State Tournament berth since 2010 and fourth overall.

Scottsbluff boys’ soccer coach Nate Rock said Wills has been a mainstay in the Bearcats’ backfield his first three years and he expects nothing less from Wills this spring for his senior season.

“He’s been a huge servant to this program, for the lack of a better term,” Rock said. “He’s very, very dedicated. He’s going to be somebody we really miss, so we look forward to having him this year. Beyond just being a good soccer player, he’s a good person and he is a great influence on and off the field and that’s hard to find.”

Rock said the best way to gauge Wills’ contribution as a defender is by the number of shutouts the Bearcats have posted over his three-year career. Last season, Scottsbluff won eight of its 10 games by shutouts. The Bearcats posted just one shutout in a 6-11 season in 2012 but had eight in a 12-7 season in 2011.

“Like Todd alluded to, he’s a kid that puts team first, and he has shown throughout his three years and I don’t expect anything different this year,” Rock said. “He’s a kid who can play all over the field and he works hard no matter where you put him.”

Wills is the son of Dave and Jolene Wills of Scottsbluff and grandson of Dr. Daryl and Bobbi Wills of Gering.

Wills said he looks to follow in his grandfather’s footsteps and gain a doctorate in chiropractic care.

“I was just mainly deciding whether or not to play soccer or just go to college just for college, but soccer is the best way for me,” he said. “I hope that I can strive for a longer soccer career than just two years at WNCC.

“I hope to finish out my initial college career with soccer. As far as how far down the road that is, I’m not sure how it will turn out but I hoping right now that it will.”

Wills also was a defensive force for the Scottsbluff football team in the fall. He earned second-team All-District B-6 honors after he made 32 tackles (20 solo) and two interceptions. Wills also was the Bearcats’ primary kickoff specialist, averaging 45.8 yards on 31 kicks.

“I’ll miss it,” Wills said of football. “I think it was just about the same physically as any other sport.”

But soccer is his forté.

“I’ve had a great high school career,” Wills said. “I’m hoping we can make it far into the season this year. I’m hoping we can capitalize on last year and keep going.”

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