McKnight valuable in goal for PHS boys soccer

Senior keeper a key player for Big Reds

Photo by Jay W. Bennett Parkersburg High School senior keeper Jacob McKnight, pictured here during a match last week against Riverside at Ohio Valley University, is coming off a second-team Class AAA all-state selection and is hoping to help the Big Reds vie for a state tournament berth.

PARKERSBURG — Veteran Parkersburg High School head coach Don Fosselman has had more than his fair share of outstanding soccer players during his tenure.

Third-year starting keeper Jacob McKnight, who earned second-team Class AAA all-state honors last year as a junior, is another in that class.

“He’s more than a keeper,” Fosselman said. “He’s one of the best young men on the team. He’s a great individual and a great leader. He happens to be so athletic and he makes so many good saves.

“We’re just blessed to have him between the pipes. That’s for sure. I think he’s the best keeper in the state. Don’t let our record fool you. We are a good team.”

Despite a slow start to the campaign, the Big Reds plan to put everything together by the postseason and make a run at reaching Beckley and the state semifinals.

“This team is really special because a lot of new guys are stepping in really well,” said the keeper. “Guys like Isaiah Owen and Sam Potts and the midfielders Hank Hines and Brendon Whitlatch.

“They are all stepping up, Ashton Farnsworth. Just a lot of new guys and they are really getting used to it. I like this team a lot.”

It doesn’t seem that long ago McKnight entered the Big Reds’ starting lineup.

However, it’s definitely been a dream come true for him.

“Whenever I came in as a sophomore and I knew I was going to be starting, I knew it was a big role being a Parkersburg High School soccer player,” he said. “Not even a starter, just a player.

“I’d seen the bar the older guys had set, even my freshman year before I played, and they set such a high standard here. So coming into this season knowing I’m a senior, captain again, I have to push these guys to a higher level and they are doing a good job.”

Being the last line of defense is a challenge McKnight has successfully accepted and continues to excel at.

He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It means a lot, just being in this program is incredible,” McKnight continued. “There’s no program like this one and being with my friends, not just Isaiah, but Isaiah has been a really close friend of mine and Anthony Bradford. We’ve been really close and Hank Hines.

“We’ve just come up together since freshmen year. It’s just awesome being with them and being with coach. He’s a great coach. He’s awesome. We’re just trying to get better and win that state championship. It’s the best feeling playing PHS soccer.”

With the vast majority of the season yet to play itself out, McKnight just wants the red and white to improve daily.

“It’s a little crazy because just coming in being a sophomore I was like I got all these years to play and now that it’s finally my senior season I got to make the most of it,” McKnight added. “Have fun and you can’t take anything for granted, even the practices.

“As much as you maybe don’t like them in high school while you are playing, I’m going to miss that. I know I am. Everyone who has come before me says they do.”

Obviously, coach Fosselman is going to miss his goalie after the season concludes, but there’s a lot of work to be done between now and then.

Having had two prior years experience and being in the fires playing Mountain State Athletic Conference soccer, Fosselman said McKnight’s development has progressed nicely.

“Confidence. Confidence,” said the coach. “He’s able to come off his line. He just feels like he belongs back there and he owns the box.

“We talk a lot about owning the box and he feels confident owning that box. He makes the right decisions about 99 percent of the time.”

For McKnight, he’s always looking for perfection, though.

“I think the main thing is we got to work together,” admitted the keeper. “Coming into this season we had a lot of new guys working together and finding a feel for each other.

“I think that’s really going to help us going forward and just putting the ball in the back of the net and keeping it out, I guess, and that’s my job. It’s a simple game.”