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You could say that Chris Lehman is off to a pretty good start as Shalom Christian's boys soccer coach.

In his two years at the helm after replacing the successful Jeff Garner, Lehman has fashioned a record of 32-7-1 and has helped the Flames to two straight Mason-Dixon Christian Conference titles.

That's good enough to earn Public Opinion Coach of the Year honors for Lehman, whose team was 17-3 this fall.

"I had Jeff as my coach when I was in high school at Shalom and I learned a lot about connecting with kids from him," Lehman said. "He built a great program and set the table for me, and this is a testament to his work."

In addition to being a Flames alumni, Lehman has an interesting coaching background. After graduating from Eastern Mennonite University, Lehman began teaching at a Christian international school in Nairobi, Kenya. He stayed for six years and in the process became the school's JV soccer coach.

Lehman said, "That gave me a lot of opportunities to try different things, and I learned a lot - I saw what would work and what wouldn't."

He is now a science and Bible teacher at Shalom's middle school, but he remains close to his players. The team meets once a week during lunch to watch game film and talk about playing strategy.

But it also gives Lehman time to "talk about character and sportsmanship, and being a young man of integrity. It helps them with the strategy of character development and the fellowship of Christ."

As a defending champion with plenty of returning players, the Flames were one of the league favorites again this year and earned the top seed with a 12-2 record. But it took an overtime goal - after allowing the tying goal late in regulation - and lots of that character, to beat Broadfording and claim the playoff title.

Lehman said, "That game was a huge highlight. We went ahead early, then it was tied with 39 seconds left. We needed to be mentally tough, and we bonded together and we got the goal to win it."

Don't count on the Flames giving up their crown easily, either. Although Shalom loses eight seniors, including seven starters, the school's middle school team won it seventh consecutive league title in October.

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