Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

May 15, 2014

The King’s Warriors

EAST RIVER — Don’t think soccer can be a worthy alternative for local residents who are anxiously awaiting the upcoming football season?

Scott Reitnour, the third-year head coach of the Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors, would beg to differ.

“I think they can come and have an appreciation for the physicality of the game,” Reitnour said. “We are hitting people without pads, but they bring different things. American football is an incredible game, I am a huge fan.

“European football or the football the King’s Warriors are playing, I think basically people that have an appreciation for American football can come and watch this style of football and have an appreciation for how fit the guys are, and how much running they do.”

The King’s Warriors will open their third season of existence — and first in Mercer County — tonight when the South Carolina United Bantams visits the East River Soccer Complex for the Premier Development League opener for both teams.

Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. Admission is $8 for adults, 17-and-up, and $5 for children under 17.

Even though the Warriors are playing in Bluefield, and the players reside in Hinton, Reitnour wants the team to represent all of southern West Virginia.

“We are not just the Hinton Warriors or the Beckley Warriors or Bluefield Warriors or the Concord University Warriors, we are all those places,” Reitnour said. “We want to play for southern West Virginia and we are going to play our games in Bluefield so come watch us do that.”

Reitnour, whose Warriors played the last two summers in Beckley, will guide the club through its 15-game schedule, with its eight home games to be played at East River. The season will run into mid-July.

“I would say our attendance steadily improved (in Beckley) from year one to year two, it is kind of like a gradual, incremental improvement,” Reitnour said. “The thing that I like about the move to Bluefield is the reception we have received from the people in that area has been incredibly welcoming.

“They have absolutely rolled out the red carpet for us and made us feel at home.”

While the feet are actually used little in the American brand of football, the feet — or the shoes — rule the sport of soccer, and that is definitely as aspect of soccer that impresses Reitnour.

“If you stand back from it and think about it, everything they are doing out there on the field, they are doing with their feet,” Reitnour said. “That just kind of blows my mind. Everything they are doing they are doing with their feet, which — if you think about it — is pretty impressive.”

Reitnour hopes the style of soccer the King’s Warriors has implemented will get local soccer fans on their feet in support of the area’s newest team.

“I think that is going to be distinctive and I think also we are going to play a very attractive style,” he said. “We will work hard defensively, but when we have the ball we are going to be dynamic going forward.

“When it is not on for us to break and counter directly, we have a talented group that will pull the ball back, put their foot on it and knock it around and entertain the fans with a very entertaining possession style.”

Reitnour, whose Warriors have gone 8-20-2 — including a 4-10 mark in 2013 — over the last two seasons, is excited about the current club that includes 28 players from 11 different countries and college from 10 states, ranging from NCAA Division I to NAIA performers.

“I am actually really excited about this group, on paper we look better than we did last year, but it really comes down to what the guys want out of this experience,” Reitnour said. “If they are willing to compete and do the things they are supposed to do, stay eligible, keep their noses clean, make sure they are ministering to each other, I think we are going to be very competitive....

“We do have a nice mix of returners who understand what the organization is about and newcomers to kind of give new life and a fresh vision to what we are doing. I am excited to see how that harmonizes.”

The King’s Warriors are a ministry-based organization formed three years ago by Dr. James Blume, a resident of Forest Hill in Summers County. Reitnour initially turned down Blume’s inquiries after coaching the King’s Warriors until learning what the primary function was.

“To use soccer to spread our message of hope and love in Christ Jesus, that is it, at the end of the day, the gospel message is a message of good news,” Reitnour said. “It is as screwed up as I am, and we all are screwed up, we are all messed up. As bad as we are, there is still hope for us because there is a God in the world that loves us.

“We use soccer just to build relationships with people and to let them know no matter how bad it is, God still loves you and there is still hope in this thing.”

Reitnour is plenty busy with soccer. He is currently the soccer coach at Wesleyan Christian Academy in High Point, N.C., and is also involved with the Piedmont Triad Football Club and teaches technique and agility through the Imago Dei Soccer Academy.

“Soccer is a massive part of my life,” said Reitnour, a native of rural New York state. “It is not the most important thing in my life, but it is a big part of my life.”

Much like the Appalachian League teams that will gather in Bluefield and Princeton next month, the King’s Warriors are comprised of athletes who have come together from throughout the nation and world, and have been blended into a team in a short amount of time.

“That is a challenge, the PDL is very similar to what you see in that baseball environment,” said Reitnour, whose players stay in two houses in nearby Hinton. “We were supporting the (West Virginia) Miners last year and it is a challenge to basically get these guys from all over the place.

“We have an additional challenge because they are from all over the world...Getting them to become a cohesive unit prior to the first match is a challenge, but love has this incredible way of binding people together and when that is the message and you are encouraging guys to be sacrificial and think about each other, it has an interesting way to making a group very cohesive in a short amount of period.”

As for what type of team Reitnour hopes to produce, it is a combination that seems to fit the West Virginia way of life just fine.

“I think they are going to see a distinctive blue-collar style, we want to adopt a coal miner’s mentality, we really want to be a team full of hard-working plumbers...,” Reitnour said. “We are a team pull of coal miners that are going to work our butts off and fans are going to enjoy watching that, they are going to have respect for how hard our team works on the field.

“Once that foundation is laid...I don’t mind if a player or two snags a few goals along the way and shows the crowd a little bit of flash, but you have to do the plumber work first.”

Do it right, and it can be a beautiful thing produced, of course, by the ‘beautiful game.’

“I would also like to think the way we play, it should be a spiritual experience, it is a spiritual experience for our players because we are playing to please God first and foremost,” Reitnour said. “Hopefully it is also a spiritual experience for the fans because they are watching a band on stage, if you will, praising God with everything they have in them and I think that is edifying and encouraging for people that are spectating there.

“We don’t just want them to just come and watch, we want them to participate in this act of worship with us, to come, scream, yell, holler, have a good time and bring your kids.”

—Contact Brian Woodson at bwoodson@bdtonline.com

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