By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD, Va. —
George Aiello likes the potential shown by his boys soccer team at Graham.
So far, that’s about all he’s been able to see.
Graham had expected to have played at least four games by now this season, but have managed just one, a 1-1 tie at Giles.
The reasons are obvious, the snowy, rainy and cold weather that has inflicted the weather since the season was slated to begin on March 15.
“We have only had practice outside four times this year,” said Aiello, during an interview last Tuesday. “It is a little challenging when you are in a gym with 24 boys to keep them engaged and moving, but like I said, they have worked real hard this year.”
Aiello, a native of Connecticut who coached the Bluefield High School program in the early 1990s, was given the reins to the G-Men after Greg DeGray stepped aside after last season.
What has awaited Aiello is a young team, but with plenty of ability just waiting to be on display.
“I have a very young team, I have 12 freshmen, one sophomore, three juniors and six seniors, we are definitely a young team,” Aiello said. “I definitely see some potential.
“We are going to have some growing pains, but the boys have worked very hard this year and I am confident that it will show during our games.”
Leading the G-Men is a collection of six seniors, paced by Forrest Yates, who signed a letter of intent last week to continue his soccer career at Bluefield College.
“It is a great opportunity for Forrest, he is a special kid, he is a special player. He definitely stands out, and has great leadership on the field and off the field,” Aiello said. “He is always willing to help the younger boys too so he is a great mentor.”
Yates has the ability to play anywhere on the pitch, but Aiello has him placed where he needs him most for the season ahead.
“He plays striker right now for us,” Aiello said. “He is very versatile, I know I can depend on Forrest anywhere on the field, but right now we need to score goals and as young as we are, he is the right person for the job.”
Graham finished in a tie in its lone game this season, and the G-Men hope to play again on Friday at Abingdon.
Yates said weather woes are nothing unusual for the G-Men.
“Just living in Bluefield, you have got to deal with the snow,” said Yates, whose G-Men advanced to the Region C playoffs last year, falling in the opening round to James River. “We did OK in our first game not getting outside any before it.”
He continued, “We are talented, we are small, but we are smart. I think we are smarter than a lot of other teams and if we become a little more physical and a little more brave we will be good.”
It also helps to have a solid defense around the net, and the G-Men have a talented goalkeeper in junior Hunter Cook, who is also a linebacker for the Graham football team.
“I am excited about him, this is just his second year playing and he had a fantastic first game with Giles, he had a lot of saves and really stepped it up,” Aiello said. “If we can continue to count on him in goal I think we will be good.”
Others that Aiello is looking to produce is junior Samuel Stowers, who is the kicker on the Graham football team, and potential has been shown by promising freshman Jake Metcalf.
“I am definitely excited about Samuel Stowers. He is going to be a midfielder and control the tempo of the game so I am excited to have him,” Aiello said. “In our first game we had a freshman who played sweeper, Jake Metcalf, and he did an awesome job too.
“If those boys step up I have no doubt we are going to have a great season.”
The Graham girls soccer team made an impact last season, reaching the state championship in their first year in Group A. Yates would like to see the G-Men do the same in 2013.
“We would like to go to states this year and perform there,” Yates said. “If we can perform there that would be a really good season.”
While Yates will be playing for Bluefield College next season, the talented cross country runner for the G-Men sees a bright future ahead for the Graham boys soccer team.
“It is going to be really good,” Yates said. “I think the eighth graders and freshmen this year are really good and they will get a lot better.”
—Contact Brian Woodson