This story is part of a series recognizing the top high school athletes in Barren County for the 2018-19 school year as chosen by the Glasgow Daily Times.
GLASGOW — Defense wins games, and Glasgow defenders Elias Banegas and Reed Gatlin played major parts in the success of the Scotties on the pitch during their high school careers.
The pair of seniors led Glasgow to its fifth consecutive District 15 title last season, and they are the co-winners of the 2018-19 Glasgow Daily Times' Boys' Soccer Athlete of the Year.
While Banegas didn't play organized soccer until his freshman year, Gatlin grew up playing the game. They both cherished their roles as defenders, even though players don't always get the credit on defense that goal-scorers receive on the other end of the field.
"To be a good defender, you have to be fast," Gatlin said. "If you're slow, you easily get beat, and goals get scored."
Banegas added that a good defender knows how to pick his spots.
"I think the main part is just to be patient. Don't try to rush in," he said. "You also have to be strong and fast and physically prepared so you can knock people over if you need to."
During their junior seasons in 2017, Glasgow reached its first 4th Region final in program history.
"Our junior year, we were well-rounded. I think we could have won the region title if it had not been for a few minor errors. But things happen," Banegas said.
Last year, Glasgow again advanced to the region tournament. The Scotties outscored opponents 74-33 in 2018 — a sign of a dominant defense.
Glasgow had eight shutouts last year, and the Scotties surrendered just five goals in 10 district matches.
"In district, we were always really dominant," Banegas said.
The Scotties haven't lost a district match since 2014.
Gatlin added that the program is headed in the right direction and players are gaining confidence in realizing they can compete against the Bowling Green schools who have owned the 4th Region.
"I feel like if you're willing to put in the effort, you can have a good team and a good community of people who want to play," Gatlin said.
But that doesn't mean success comes easy.
With smiles on their faces, Gatlin and Banegas said Glasgow coach Ken Mahung can be a tough and disciplined coach, adding that they couldn't begin to count how many times they heard the word "system" while Mahung instructed his players.
He expects the game to be played the right way, and he has little tolerance for lack of effort, they said.
They also teased that you'll never see Mahung wearing short-sleeves.
"As crazy as he may sound, as ludicrous as things may get, just listen to him and do what he tells you to do, because in the end you'll be rewarded and you'll realize the stuff he's saying is really intelligent," Banegas said of Mahung.
Banegas knows first-hand how the end justify the means. Mahung said the right back actually quit his sophomore season during a strenuous drill. Banegas returned the next season, and Mahung said he embraced the challenges of what's expected out of Glasgow soccer players.
"He worked so hard for us coming back," Mahung said. "I told him you're way behind and there's a lot of work to do. He said: 'I'm ready.'"
Banegas turned his second chance into a college opportunity, as he will play soccer at Berea College beginning this fall.
Gatlin scored four goals in 2018, and that wasn't a surprise considering he was originally a striker for the Scotties. Mahung said Gatlin's selflessness was displayed entering his junior season when he was asked to move from being a scorer to playing center back.
The move wasn't a slight to Gatlin, Mahung said. It was made out of necessity. Mahung needed someone with the size, speed and skills to fill the position, and he knew Gatlin was the only one he could rely on to get the job done.
"He said 'Alright coach. If you think the team needs me there, that's where I'll play,'" Mahung said.
The transition was nearly seamless.
"Anyone watching him play would think he was a natural center back, but he wasn't. He was a striker," Mahung said.
Gatlin and Banegas were co-captains of the 2018 squad. Mahung praised their leadership and maturity, as well as their skills on the pitch.
"They both anchored our defense," Mahung said. "They will be hard to replace."