By BOB REDD
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
“I played in eighth grade just to give it a try and I played goalie and liked it. This year I just figured since it was my senior year, I didn’t want to get hurt in football, to take anything away from wrestling, I figured I would do it,” said Brandon Eldridge, goal keeper for the Bluefield High School boys soccer team.
Eldridge, along with his other teammates, has helped the Beavers to an 11-5-2 record and No. 9 ranking among Class AA soccer teams in the state of West Virginia.
Eldridge is one of 10 seniors on the Bluefield roster. While this is his first year on the BHS team, he said the squad is a close-knit group and that helps them on the field.
“We are a good team and we have lots of good bonds,” Eldridge said. “None of us really argue, we’re all real close. We hang out. Before the games we’ll all go to our manager, Kiontae’s house and we’ll just sit around and play some games. He’ll make us food and we just hang out and get close before a game, or whenever we don’t have practice.”
Having not played the game in four years, Eldridge had to knock off some of the rust.
“It was like learning for the first time all over again,” Eldridge commented. “My teammates worked with me over the summer, got me to where I am now. It was like starting from scratch almost.”
Eldridge has earned his keep in goal for Bluefield this season, making saves that have helped his team win and recently maintain a scoreless tie against sectional rival PikeView.
An All-State wrestler, Eldridge is heading to St. Andrews University in Laurinburg, N.C., next fall to wrestle and major in business and marketing. He said wrestling and his job as goal keeper on the soccer team go hand-in-hand and complement one another.
“It (soccer) helps my footwork and reaction time a whole lot and that’s big in wrestling,” Eldridge said. “About 70 percent of it is on your feet, working around, being quick and it’s all reaction time, basically know when to counter, know when to go for something and it helps playing in the goal.
“When they kick the ball you’ve got about half a second to get yourself situated before it’s right there at you and it’s coming fast. Getting used to that will help on the wrestling mats.”
Wrestling practice at Bluefield High doesn’t start until Nov. 17, but until then Eldridge will continue playing with the soccer team as sectional play begins next week.
Eldridge’s father, Philip, a former athlete at Mount View High School in the late 1980s has been very influential in the athletic development of Eldridge the younger.
“He’s always been in my corner when I needed him, to give me support whenever I needed it,” Brandon Eldridge said. “He comes and sees me play sports and he can relate to me being an athlete. When I’m having a problem he can relate to it just like I can, so that helps.”
While Eldridge has many memories of the past season on the soccer field, he said his fondest recollection is not of any particular play, or any particular game, but rather the team as a whole.
“I like being out here with my teammates,” Eldridge said. “It’s not like football, there is constant, non-stop motion. You’re with your teammates and they’re moving around, you have to talk, you have to communicate with each other a lot. Where we hang out and we’re all close, it helps on the field, communicating.”
Eldridge and the Beavers take on the King’s Warriors today in Hinton.
— Contact Bob Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org