PARKERSBURG - Don Fosselman has been a head coach long enough to know not to take anything for granted.
That's why the veteran Parkersburg High School boys soccer boss, with six state championships to his credit, is wary of the fifth-ranked 18-2-2 Big Reds' 10 a.m. Friday Class AAA state semifinal versus underdog Winfield, which brings only a 11-9-3 mark into the match at Beckley.
A Tuesday morning Charleston newspaper headline proclaiming Winfield "a team of destiny" spurred on Fosselman to discuss the subject with his team in their pre-practice meeting Tuesday afternoon. "I stressed that we are not going to overlook anyone," said Fosselman. "We're playing next team up - that's who we're focusing on."
In their only meeting this season, PHS blanked Winfield 4-0 on Sept. 17 at Stadium Field. "But they (the Generals) were missing at least one really good kid, (junior) Steve Taylor, who's a true striker," said Fosselman. "He could make a difference. We're very aware of his capability and what he can do on a soccer field."
Nevertheless, Fosselman knows too that "we're not bad ourselves either,'' citing "getting through a really tough region" by besting both No. 2-ranked Wheeling Park 4-0 and No. 3 Morgantown 2-0 to get to the state, and "not giving up a goal" in doing so, starting with a 5-0 sectional win over Parkersburg South. 'So we feel like we've played very well in the tournament."
The other state semifinal at Beckley Friday 30 minutes after PHS-Winfield concludes pits George Washington (22-0-1) against Jefferson (13-0-2). Friday's winners then meet for the AAA state crown at 10 a.m. Saturday.
On The Pitch
vs Winfield (11-9-3)
Game time: 10 a.m. Friday
Place: At Beckley
The Big Reds didn't play Jefferson this year, but dropped both games versus GW. "They were very close, both 2-1 scores and one in overtime," said Fosselman, whose 2012 squad finished as state runner-up.
''This year's team, first of all, plays well as a team; they're a selfless bunch," said Fosselman. "They've had one common goal, with the promise they made at the beginning of the season to win the state championship, and now we're two wins from that. But it'll take that team effort the next two games to get the job done."
So combine that teamwork ethic with a potent offense - five players scoring 10 or more goals - and 6-foot-3 senior Reid Strobl's sterling goaltending to lead the defensive effort, and that's a pretty good recipe for success on the pitch.
Junior Tommy Logston leads with 22 goals, followed by senior Evan Rhodes with 18 goals (and 18 assists), junior Matthew Powney with 16, senior Tyler Bro with 15 and freshman Immanuel Opoku-Duah with 10 or 11. ''That's a ton of goals, 103," said Fosselman. "It's not a record, but it's in our top two or three.
"And we've got a good goalie in Reid (Strobl), and goalies win state championships. I think Reid is the best goalie in the state, and he's gotten better every year. He really makes some nice saves; he's very a special player."