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Sure, forwards get to score most of the goals. And goalkeepers make some nifty saves.

 To Zach Bares, however, the heartbeat of a soccer team pumps amid the midfielders.

 "I used to play a little bit of forward, but I guess you could say I found my niche in midfield. ... I like to be on the ball a lot and I like to see the field," said Bares, a 5-foot-9, 135-pound Century High School senior. "I like to help my teammates both offensively and defensively. ... Everything runs though the midfielders, both on offense and on defense."

Bares and soccer go back a long way together. He started playing informally before kindergarten, and organized soccer has been a way of life for him for over a decade.

 He first earned a spot on the CHS varsity as a freshman, and he's played in three state tournaments. The problem is, he's never competed in a state championship game. Century has placed fifth, seventh and fourth in the state tournament the past three years.

 As a senior, Bares knows full well that it's now or never for his state championship dream.

 "We (seniors) just want to go out the best we can. We know it's our last year. In 10 or 15 years I don't want to be able to look back and feel 'man I'm glad we accomplished that. ... I don't want to look back with regret," he said.

 Century has won four state boys soccer titles, the most recent in 2013. Last fall the Patriots won the West Region championship for the seventh time.

 It's Bares' opinion the Patriots are capable of doing both this season, but is well aware they'll have to play at the peak of their ability to emerge a champion.

 "We have only four or five seniors on the varsity, but we've been playing with each other the year around. We push each other to meet our goals," he noted. 

 Bares acknowledges it'll be crowded near the top of North Dakota boys soccer this fall. He said defending state champion West Fargo hasn't lost much, and expects the Patriots to be part of a wild three-way race in the West, along with Minot and Bismarck.

 "Everybody knows that to win a state championship they're going to have to knock out West Fargo somewhere along the way," Bares observed. "Us, Minot and Bismarck, we're all up there."

 Century teams have played in 22 straight tournaments. That tradition cuts both ways. CHS players know expectations and demands run high. They also know they're a target just about every time they take the field.

 "We've got to go into every game thinking like we've got to play our hearts out. We've got a target on our backs and we can't take any games for granted," Bares noted.

 Century is off to a 2-0 start, thanks to a pair of 1-0 victories in last week's East-West Crossover at Jamestown. Senior Conor Fehr and Junior Austin Underhill played in the net as the Patriots blanked Fargo South and West Fargo Sheyenne.

Century head coach Ryan Okerson said he came away from last week's two games impressed with the abundance of quality players he has on his roster.

 "I liked the depth we have. We played roughly half of each game with our reserves," he said. "... Both those teams will do well in the East."

 The soccer culture at Century is one of winning for both boys and girls. Okerson, who coaches both the CHS boys and girls, said Patriot soccer players report ready to compete at a high level.

 "A lot of pride goes into the program. They just want to play," he said. "They deliver. We expect a lot of them in training and they generally don't disappoint us."

 "We've got one of the more talented teams in the West. Whether we play like that is up to us," Okerson added.

 Century plays its West Region opener on Thursday, visiting Jamestown for a 7:30 game. 

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