BY JOEY LAFRANCA
PLATTSBURGH — A new name will be leading the way for the Clinton Community College men’s soccer program this fall.
The Clinton Department of Athletics has announced that Keagen Briggs will become the new head coach of the Cougars.
Briggs, 22, replaces Mike Eppler who spent the last five years as Clinton’s head coach before retiring after the 2018 season.
Briggs, a Peru native, played four seasons of varsity soccer at Seton Catholic before spending four seasons at Potsdam as a goalkeeper.
FORMING A CONNECTION
Briggs’ connection to Clinton began to form after Eppler brought him on board last season to work with the squad’s goalkeepers.
Briggs also assisted Seton Catholic’s boys varsity team during the 2018 campaign.
“Getting to work with Clinton’s goalkeepers last year helped me get to know the guys a little bit,” Briggs said. “I also did a lot of work with Seton Catholic’s team, and with the combination of helping out at Clinton and Seton, my interest in coaching began to grow because I had a good connection with the guys I was coaching.
“After the season at Clinton ended, I knew the opportunity was open. I brought it up to (Clinton Athletic Director Kevin Daugherty) just to see if it was still open, and it was. I applied and just went from there.”
Clinton finished with a 2-12-1 record a season ago and went 0-11-1 against Region III opponents.
Briggs expects the Cougars to have seven or eight returners and hopes to showcase a 20-player roster this fall.
“Since I have taken the job, all the players have seemed pretty excited to have me on board, which is awesome,” Briggs said.
“If it was not a good group of kids, I would not have put my name in the mix for the coaching job. I am really excited for the guys that are coming back and everyone we are bringing in. I think next year’s team can accomplish a lot.”
Before Eppler joined Clinton, he spent nearly 20 seasons as Seton Catholic’s coach, which included the four years Briggs played for the Knights.
Eppler did not hesitate to acknowledge how Briggs showcased some of the character traits needed to be a successful coach even when he was in high school.
“I am very enthusiastic that Keagen is taking over because he has the drive to build the team and a great intelligence of the game,” Eppler said.
“I think one of the most important parts of coaching is how you come across to the players. It’s a lot more than teaching soccer, and you want to contribute to their life, which Keagen will be able to do very well.”
Eppler also acknowledged how his successor will bring a strong passion to Clinton.
“With what is going on now in sports, you see a lot of younger people coming in with new ideas,” he said. “Keagen did a tremendous job with our goalies last year, and I know he is going to install a great system and going to implement a great defensive mindset.”
BUILDING A STAFF
Since obtaining the Clinton job, Briggs has worked to form a coaching staff to assure his first season with the Cougars will be a success.
He has elected to have Justin Kellett serve as his assistant.
Kellett, a Northern Adirondack graduate, played two years of soccer at North Country Community College before joining Potsdam for two seasons, where he met Briggs.
“Justin took a different avenue in his soccer career, which is why I have him as part of my staff,” Briggs said. “He can relate, and he gets the junior college system even a little more than I do since he played at North Country.
“He took the smarter avenue and let himself develop at the junior college level, which is my selling point for a lot of players.”
‘HE CAN RELATE’
Discussing Eppler’s retirement and Briggs’ arrival, Daugherty said the transition should be smooth.
One of the top qualities he noted about Briggs was how he can easily connect with his players in many ways.
“I know that Keagen has a lot of soccer knowledge and that he is going to bring that to Clinton,” Daugherty said. “He is only a few years older than the kids he is going to coach, and he can relate very well to them as players and people as well.
“Mike has always been a gentleman at Clinton and someone we always were excited to have as a coach.
“We have that same excitement for Keagen. With his age, he will be able to have a vision that other kids can understand and adapt to rather quickly, and he has already done a great job recruiting.”
As a local soccer player who has spent his whole life in the North Country, Briggs said he knows local talent can fuel his squad.
He said he has reached out to countless local high school coaches to let graduating seniors know about the opportunities at Clinton.
“Being a kid from this area, I have a lot of faith in the talent here,” Briggs said. “I know if you are put in the right system with the right coaching, you can really get a lot out of it.
“Recruiting out of the area has always been an issue, but luckily, we have a lot of talent in this area that can succeed at Clinton.”
To bolster recruiting, Briggs developed an online recruiting form that interested players can find and complete at clintoncougarsathletics.
‘SOCCER IS MY PASSION’
Embarking on his first season at Clinton, Briggs plans to create a culture that players want to be a part of and know they can succeed in.
He wants to take all his experiences and knowledge he has obtained during his soccer career and pass it on to his players.
“Soccer is my passion, and it’s something I want to be involved with as long as possible,” Briggs said. “At Potsdam and Seton, I was always a person that really listened to what a person was saying and tried to take something from every coach.
“One of my biggest goals at Clinton is I want to create a competitive and hardworking atmosphere and try to build something successful.
“Most importantly, I want to make sure the kids are getting something out of their time at Clinton and want to come back for more and want to become better people.”
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