Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

August 27, 2013

Panthers have eyes set on titles, records

By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

GARDNER — For the first time in the program’s history, someone other than Sam or Angie Hill is leading the PikeView boys soccer team. But the “new” coach is not a new face by any means.

Bill Hopkins has assisted the Hills for a couple of years on varsity and ran the PikeView Middle School soccer program. Corbett Calfee continues as an assistant varsity coach. Sam Hill remains the head coach of the PikeView girls, assisted by Rod Klein.

“We still handle the boys and girls programs together,” Hopkins said. “We travel together, we help each other. Sam is still involved.”

Hopkins said to make best use of this year’s personnel, he has gone to a 4-3-3 basic alignment. Otherwise, he said, “It’ll be very similar to what Sam ran. We have very similar philosophies.”

Of the 24 boys on the squad, 18 have travel soccer experience.

“The talent level and the skill level should be superior,” Hopkins said. “We’re really going to look for more possession, and try not to play as much ‘boot and scoot.’ ”

That requires patience. The team has learned to work within the coaching strategy and to wait for their chances, Hopkins said.

“When they see that it works to perfection, they go ‘a-ha!’ We’ve had some of those a-ha moments.”

Last weekend, he said, the Panthers got off to an 0-1-1 start, tying Robert C. Byrd High 2-2 and falling to Fairmont Senior 2-1, but PikeView possessed the ball about 70 of the 80 minutes in one of their matches, the coach said.

“We just have to learn how to finish ... in that last one-third (of the pitch),” Hopkins said.

“We were without one of our strikers and our starting goalkeeper,” he added.

The defense, “right down the middle, is very strong,” Hopkins said. Co-captain Alex Testerman, a senior, is positioned at stopper and junior Jason Weitzel is behind him as the sweeper.

“They complement each other very well,” Hopkins said. “Alex is an attacker on defense, and Jason stays back, more of a defensive mentality.”

Brandon Calfee and Joe Bailey, along with Noah Harrison and Paydon Cutlip, fill out the defense. Austin Cordell is a veteran presence at goalkeeper.

Hopkins said communication is “extremely important” to a successful defense.

“We’ve got drills just to let the other man know where you’re at. We have a couple of very quiet-type people. We’re trying to get them to come out of their shell a little bit and command the presence that they should,” he said.

The Panthers allowed just 19 goals last season, and are looking to give up 18 — or fewer — this time around.

That’s not all. They have a goal of 98 goals to be scored, and a three-man front is a step toward that. Players representing 90 percent of PikeView’s goal-scoring last year are returnees to the team.

“With three guys up top, we want to pressure the defense, almost like a swarm of bees,” Hopkins said.

Issac Van Blaricom, though now fighting an injury, is one of those up front. Seth Wood and Gene Weatherly are at left and right wing, backed up by Liam Deason and freshman Blake Hopkins.

“Communication is as important to the offense as it is to the defense, if you’re looking at a true possession game,” Hopkins said.

In between, Hunter Klein is especially mobile at attacking midfielder. Co-captain Vaughn Campbell and Alec White, last year’s leading scorer while at forward, flank him in midfield.

Hopkins said, “We have probably the hardest-working midfield you’re going to find.” He said about Klein, “He has a work rate that’s just phenomenal. ... We put it in his mind that we wanted truly an attacking midfielder and that’s what we want him to do.”

“He commands authority out there. He lets teammates know where they need to be.”

The success of the PikeView soccer program “becomes an expectation,” Hopkins said. “It’s not a hope, it’s an expectation.”

A trip to the championship match this fall is something the team has talked about “since the first day of the preseason,” the coach said. “With the talent we have on this team, there’s no reason we cannot.”

“We set an expectation. They understand how to get there, and what dedication it takes. They know they’ve got to work for it. It’s not going to be handed to you.”

— Contact Tom Bone at

tbone@bdtonline.com