WILLIAMSTOWN -- It takes a special kind of player to crack the lineup on a boys soccer team like Mount Greylock.
You have to be even better to be penciled in as a starter for the powerhouse Mounties your freshman year. Yet, that's exactly what ninth grader Benni McComish has done this season.
"He's right in line with a really good history of strong central midfield players to come out of Mount Greylock," said Mounties coach Blair Dils. "I think he's more -- I don't want to get too ahead of myself -- he's probably one of the best-skilled players we've had at that position."
McComish has wasted no time grabbing attention to start his high school career after getting some playing time off the bench as an eighth grader last year. He has two goals and four assists already for Greylock (3-0-0, 1-0-0 North Division). Only Nathan Majumder has more helpers for the Mounties.
McComish may only stand 5-foot-4, but he's technically gifted and a fast learner. More than that, he has an advanced soccer intelligence Dils has rarely seen. McComish's father is Icelandic and the midfielder has spent the last two summers training in the island nation while visiting his grandparents.
"It's more like physical and the skill level is much different," McComish said. "Here we do a lot more possession -- which is a lot more fun -- but in Iceland we do a lot of one-on-one stuff and a lot of finishing."
It's benefited McComish stateside. Dils said the freshman has a sublime sense of the game and rarely kicks an errant ball. He serves as a link between Majumder's attacking style and the more defensive Jake Foehl in the midfield. McComish offers both, short stature and all.
"He's really tough," Majumder said. "He's small but he's really tough. You can tell. In the midfield there's these huge high school seniors and he's a little freshman. He doesn't get beat off balls by their size. It's amazing to watch because he can use his body and keep them off of it."
Majumder and McComish already have developed an impressive rapport. Majumder said he wasn't sure what the midfield would look like this season after the graduation of Luke Costley and Tom Dils, who combined to score 12 goals in 2011 and assist on 12 others. Yet McComish has stepped in and filled the void.
Hoosac Valley coach Camilo Bermudez saw it in person when McComish assisted on a Majumder goal that was the only tally in a 1-0 Greylock victory earlier this season. Bermudez saw McComish a year ago when he was coaching at St. Joseph's. He said he knew then that McComish would be a player. Even as a nervous eighth grader, Dils trusted McComish enough to put him on the field in overtime of the Western Massachusetts Division II semifinal against Monument Mountain.
"If you look from an outside perspective, Coach Dils did the right thing," Bermudez said. "He played him in eighth grade and he's developed into a good player. He's only going to get better."
That's the hope in Williamstown. Beyond his many technical skills, McComish can absorb tactical instructions quickly and apply them on the field. It's that soccer IQ that's so unusual for a young player. It helped McComish earn a starting spot from the start of his freshman campaign. That's something Dils strained to recall happening more than a couple times in his prior 13 years with the Mounties.
"He makes many, many good decisions on the field. It's rare to catch him in a wrong decision," Dils said. "He goes out and works his rear end off and gets the job done. It can sneak up on you how great a job he's doing. He's so fluid. He seems very natural at that position. You'd be impressed by all the little things he does."
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