South boys soccer looks to keep building, improving

Key players return as underclassmen look to develop

File photo Parkersburg South goalkeeper Chase Hawkins, right, makes a play on the ball before a University player can attempt a shot on goal during a high school soccer match last season.

PARKERSBURG — For third-year Parkersburg South head boys soccer coach Eric Stump, “we’re continuing to build and learn from every game. We watch the game films, we critique what we do. It’s just a continuous improvement.”

In his second year last season at the boys soccer helm, “we were still building the program last year,” said Stump. “We were a very young team last year. We only had three seniors (Bradley Stump, Ethan Nedeff and Bailey Way) and all of them graduated at the top of their class.

“Our expectations for the year weren’t exactly what we wanted, but we did finish well at 7-10 for the season. Every game was an improvement as we kept getting better as the season went on; we just ran out of time.”

Key players coming back this year for the Patriot booters are seniors Clay Burrows, Nick Hawkins, Chase Hawkins and Ben Atkinson.

“We didn’t have Burrows last year as he had a knee injury,” said coach Stump. “But he’s back and will be at our center defensive position this year.”

Nick Hawkins, the other team captain with Burrows, is the team’s center attacking midfielder, while Chase Hawkins is also returning in goal again as is Atkinson “returning up top on the outside,” said the coach.

Plus, added coach Stump, “a couple of our freshmen from last year have really stepped it up and will get a lot of playing time this year.

“Really, we’ve got five solid seniors, juniors and some underclassmen filling in. So all around the board, it’s just continuous improvement.”

This year, “with us being 7-10 last year, I’m shooting for a winning season obviously,” said the coach. “We just have to play every game like it’s our last one and do the best we can in each game.”

South starts its season at 10 a.m. Saturday at home versus Linsly at the Erickson All-Sports Facility.

“We have our formations that we’re running (on offense),” said coach Stump. “But one of our struggles has been defense, so we always work on our defensive drills, and I think we’ve beaten that one pretty hard.”

On the opposition each game, “each team has its own unique style, and basically whoever we’re getting ready to play, we remember how they played in the past and we try to gear up for that,” said the coach.

“We’ll be solid in defense this year. Actually last year, I put Bradley Stump at my center defender. He really never played defense up to that point, but that’s where one of our weaknesses was, and he adapted and filled in a humungous hole back there.”

When South gets the ball on offense, you can look for “Nick Hawkins in the middle of the field pushing it up to (sophomores) Evan Rose, Nick Murphy, (junior) Julio Lemus and Atkinson,” said coach Stump. “And that could change game to game depending on injuries and who we’re playing.”

Last spring, Burrows tore his ACL and meniscus, had surgery in August and was recovering since until he got released June 26. “So yes, it feels good to be actually back out again, with all the boys and practicing,” he said. “And I haven’t had any issues, so that’s great.”

This fall, Burrows will be playing center defensive back with junior Ben Haught.

For Burrows, a third-year captain with Nick Hawkins the other captain this season, “this year, I definitely think everyone’s attitude is much better,” he said. “Last year, there was nothing wrong with our attitude, but I think everyone’s just a little more hungrier this year than last year.

“People are excited. We have a great upperclass and some great lower classmen too, and everybody’s ready to get our job done this season.”

Nick Hawkins, a four-year soccer player at South, this season will be an attacking midfielder. In fact, he’s always played at midfield, either at midfielder or striker on offense.

Last year “was definitely one of our better seasons that we’ve had since we’ve been up here,” said Nick Hawkins, “and also definitely a learning experience like just competing more as a team, as well as building on from last year to this year.

“We all improve as the season goes on — like we all get to know each other better, where everyone’s at, and communicating with everyone else out on the field.”

If that happens, said Hawkins, “then I think we’ll be really good at the end of the season.”

Plus, he also has noticed “a better attitude this year, and I’m sure as the season goes along, it’ll improve more with team bonding and the chemistry being higher.

“This team is full of seniors with eight and a bunch of the younger players are going to get some starting time too. And our seniors and juniors both have a lot of experience.”

Goal keeper Chase Hawkins, in his fourth year on the team, has “always played in goal since like U8, I think that’s as early as I played it,” he said.

In fact, he thinks “we’re going to take the success from last year, when we did a lot better than previous years, and this season take it even further.”

That will happen primarily because, he said, “we have a larger group of people who can really play with the ball. We all know each other and have played with one another for a long time, so I think that what’s going to get us up there.

“But we have to be acutely ready when we get to the end of the season. That’s always going to be one of our toughest challenges, because after a whole year of playing, it’ll be more up here (pointing to his head) really keeping your head in the game.”