KINGWOOD — There’s been a distinct type of buzz across the Preston Knights soccer program this season. There’s extra positivity inside the locker room and it’s prolonged into the Kingwood group and all through the county.
“After our dwelling scrimmage (towards Grafton on Aug. 18), I noticed extra folks speaking and I observed our gamers on the market with extra confidence,” PHS head coach Mark Deep mentioned. “We knew some good issues may occur this season.”
Good issues virtually occurred straight away in Week 1, however Preston fell by only one level on the street towards Hampshire. Regardless of two extra defeats within the following weeks, the workforce, and group, by no means gave up.
Good issues got here in Week 4.
The Knights knocked off Robert C. Byrd for the primary time since 2017 with a 20-14 victory in entrance of one of many largest dwelling crowds in latest reminiscence.
“That was the most individuals I’ve ever seen at certainly one of our dwelling video games,” junior Ethan Likens mentioned. “It was my first dwelling win in three years at the highschool and it felt nice. We labored laborious all week and it paid off.”
It virtually didn’t occur.
One of many Knights’ worst stretches led to certainly one of their largest performs to safe the win. They discovered themselves down 14-13 with 9 minutes to go in regulation after it took RCB only one minute to attain following a three-and-out by Preston.
Sophomore quarterback Slaton Manko hit Cody Smith for a 50-yard acquire and a few hard-nosed dashing after that lifted the Knights into the tip zone for the decisive rating and victory.
“We talked about it within the huddle,” Likens mentioned. “We knew that we had been nonetheless within the recreation and a win was proper in our fingers. We took the ball proper down the sector and executed it how we needed to.”
Deep felt that sequence was a microcosm of this younger season, and what he has been serving to to construct all through his tenure as head coach.
“We fought again and answered, we didn’t fold,” Deep mentioned. “The youngsters fought by it and got here out on high. That’s a fantastic expertise for the youngsters and so they wish to expertise that repeatedly, be assured, earn it and simply win it. Let’s not watch for one thing unhealthy to occur, let’s exit and win the sport.”
Regardless of two lopsided losses on the street at North Marion and Fairmont Senior, Deep noticed a number of weeks of strong practices again dwelling in Kingwood. The workforce didn’t fold towards RCB final week, and within the weeks prior, they weren’t prepared to pack it in with an extended season nonetheless forward of them.
“We ready the final two weeks on ourselves,” Deep mentioned. “We performed two actually good groups beforehand in North Marion and Fairmont Senior and we took that point to work on ourselves. There’s nonetheless a ton of enchancment that we have to make, however the previous two weeks confirmed that if we buckle down and look inward at issues, we had been going to get higher and that paid off on Friday (towards Robert C. Byrd) and we’re seeing the advance this week too.”
At observe main as much as this week’s recreation towards 3-1 East Fairmont, Deep has been asking his gamers, “Is one sufficient for you guys?”
One isn’t sufficient for Likens.
“Every time we get rolling, I really feel like we will’t cease. We’re all beginning to play like that and good issues will come from that,” he mentioned. “You’ll be able to inform as soon as we’re on the sector that it’s a way more constructive angle with issues. We love our system and we had been enjoying with way more confidence.”
Likens was final 12 months’s defensive MVP as a sophomore. He recorded greater than 100 tackles and is on tempo for a fair greater mark this season. He tallied 10.5 stops towards RCB and had 14 to open the season at Hampshire.
East Fairmont comes into the sport on a three-game profitable streak, notching victories over Grafton, Berkeley Springs and Braxton County. The Bees opened the season with a 55-24 setback towards North Marion, a workforce that shut out Preston in Week 2.
Constructing confidence, proving folks unsuitable and overcoming adversity have helped set up this buzz round Preston this season. However nothing has been extra highly effective than the respect proven to the workforce’s head coach earlier this month.
On Sept. 6, Deep’s father, Michael, died at age 73 in his hometown of Cannonsburg, Pa. The Knights added “MD” decals to their helmets in honor of the coach’s dad.
“I used to be confused,” Deep mentioned. “Soccer is household.”
BY MATTHEW PEASLEE