SWANSBORO – As talented as Cannon Tootle has shown to be the last two soccer seasons, the Swansboro junior standout said he still has work to do before he reaches the status of his graduated brothers on the pitch.

“Honestly, the best player in the family is Cadence,” he said. “He has more experience, but within the next few years I want to surpass him.”

Cadence, who graduated last month, doesn’t dispute his younger brother's latter comment at all. He anticipates Cannon to take the throne as the most elite player in the family, which also consists of brothers, Storm and Gunner.

“I know it will be him eventually,” Cadence said. “He just knows the game so well. He can dribble and shoot. He’s just an all-around good player.”

But this fall will be a season where Cannon is the lone Tootle for the Pirates, who start official practice July 31 and kick off the regular season Aug. 11 at home against New Hanover.

The Tootle name has been a mainstay in the Swansboro soccer community, starting with Storm, who graduated in 2011 following a stand-out tenure as a goal-scorer. Then, Gunner and Cadence came along and proved to be reliable leaders.

The three younger brothers were teammates two years ago while Cadence and Cannon continued to play together last season.

Now there’s one – 16-year-old Cannon.

“I just have to fill their shoes because my brothers have been so good,” Cannon said before a recent summer league match at the Swansboro Soccer Complex. “There’s some pressure there, but I have to deal with it and I think I’ll be fine.”

The youngest Tootle has certainly created his own identity.

Last year, the forward led Swansboro with 24 goals and 30 assists to helping the Pirates go 23-4-1, win the Coastal 3-A Conference title at 11-1 and advance to the East Regional semifinal, where they lost to Terry Sanford in penalty kicks.

He was named to the 3-A all-state team by the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association.

As a freshman in 2015, Tootle had 6 goals and 6 assists.

“Making all-state as a sophomore was a big deal,” coach Doug Kidd said. “Cannon is a great competitor who wants to play at a high level all the time. He had great stats last year and had balance as far as goals and assists.”

And how did Tootle do all that?

“His biggest strength is being able to break players down 1v1,” Kidd said. “That’s such a difference-maker in matches when you have a kid who can beat a player any time to create that opportunity or set somebody else up.”

Cannon’s play have led to NCAA Division I scholarship offers. He committed to North Carolina-Wilmington in May.

But, as Cadence simply put it, “all eyes are on” Cannon now because “he’s the last one” this season.

Still, Cadence, last year’s The Daily News offensive player of the year, doesn’t think anything will faze his younger bro.

“I definitely expect him to step up and be a leader,” he said. “He knows the highest levels of play and he knows what he needs to do.”

And while he no longer has his older siblings to help him on the pitch, Cannon said he still depends on his brothers for guidance.

“I go to them all the time,” he said. “They just tell me to play my game and to keep my head in it.”

And Kidd expects Tootle to do that.

The coach said Cannon will serve as a captain this season and that not only will be asked to remain a playmaker, he will also be looked at to help lead the younger players.

“I think the biggest thing I’d like to see him do is be a positive leader for us on the field,” Kidd said. “He has that Tootle mentality where at times he gets a little heated, and you don’t want to take that out of him because he is competitive, but when things are not going well, I want to see him show more composure and leadership.”


Chris Miller can be contacted via email at chris.miller@jdnews.com or by calling 910-219-8472