When Station Camp soccer is awarded a penalty kick, the Bison turn to senior Cade MacLean.

Experience and poise have earned him the rights to that role. Nearly one-third of MacLean’s goals this season have come from the penalty spot.

“I like that my teammates trust me to be that guy to step up,” he said. “They have faith in me to make those.”

MacLean is undoubtedly Station Camp’s star now. But it wasn’t always that way, even if the Belmont signee did see playing time as a freshman on the 2018 state championship team.

The 6-foot attacking midfielder had to earn his spot. He came into a program that was led by 2018 Gatorade Player of the Year Atakelti Gebregzabher, who MacLean described as a “role model,” and a bevy of other talented players.

That drove MacLean to spend countless hours honing his craft. He did speed and agility drills at his home before school, stuck to a strict diet and went back to the field for extra work after team practices ended.

Sometimes that meant waking up at 6 a.m. or staying late for individual drills.

“Getting playing time as a freshman and sophomore was hard,” MacLean said. “It just taught me to keep working at it. Those guys were awesome players who were here before me, so I knew if I just kept working harder, it would pay off later.”

MacLean is enjoying the fruits of that labor in his final high school season. He has 13 goals and 6 assists as unbeaten Station Camp (7-0-4) heads into the stretch run of its schedule.

Jeremy Cooke coached against the Bison at nearby Beech before taking the Station Camp job following the 2018 season. MacLean reminds him of Gebregzabher in some ways.

“There’s an instinct from them that’s just different from what most people have,” Cooke said. “They know where to be. If you watched AG, he would play his role but also roam. Cade does the same thing.”

MacLean still heeds Gebregzabher’s advice to “keep moving” because “when you’re stagnant, you’re not staying in the game.”

Last year’s seniors are also top of mind for MacLean and this year’s Station Camp team. Those Bison never got a chance to earn redemption for their heartbreaking loss in penalty kicks to Bearden in the 2019 Class AAA title game.

“Since that season was taken from us, we owe it to those (2020 seniors),” MacLean said. “We feel like it’s on us. We’ve made sure to come together, be a team and build friendships with each other.”

Whenever Station Camp’s season ends, MacLean will turn his attention to preparing for college. Cooke won’t be surprised if he earns playing time at Belmont right away this fall.

“He has great size and ability,” Cooke said. “He’s got a work ethic like I’ve never seen before. Belmont is getting a gem. They’ll see that right from the beginning.”

MacLean has already shown he can perform on the big stage. He scored a goal in the 2018 championship game against Blackman and buried a penalty kick in the title match a year later.

He’s hoping for one more chance to shine in Murfreesboro – both for himself and for those who came before him.

“I feel like it would be an awesome moment if we could bring it home not only for us, but also for (the 2020 seniors),” MacLean said. “We just have to stay together and keep working hard for each other.”

Russell Vannozzi is the sports editor for Main Street Preps and Main Street Nashville. Vannozzi, a 2019 Lipscomb University graduate, was previously the sports editor for the Robertson County Connection. He has won multiple TPA and TSWA awards.

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