*Due to space limitations this article did not appear in the printed edition of the Mountain Statesman in 10/16. However, it will still be printed in the upcoming 10/20 edition. We apologize for any inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.
GRAFTON— The Taylor County Middle School (TCMS) Knights soccer team had some hard-fought battles recently, coming up short against an experienced West Fairmont Middle School (WFMS) team and tying with the Buckhannon Upshur Middle School Buccaneers (BUMS).
The Knights’ contest with West was a battle from the start, as TCMS Head Coach Travis Uhl shared that this team is always well coached and a talented group.
While the first half of play was evenly matched, with the Knights able to break up their opponent’s passing game and keep WFMS out of the net.
However, that would change in the second with West receiving the kickoff to start and was able to connect with the back of the net just three minutes in, off of a well-placed shot from their striker.
“West’s striker was able to fight his way past our center backs and made a great shot in the far corner of the net,” recalled Uhl. “It was just one of those plays that you tip your hat to and ‘say good shot, you got us with that one.’”
The Knights remained focused and stayed tough, not allowing WFMS another goal, but in return, West’s defense powered over the Knights, as TCMS had zero shots on goal.
“I tell the boys to always give every effort, and never say we could have done more. Each of the boys gave everything they had from whistle to whistle. I am very proud of their efforts,” Uhl said.
Next up, the Knights would hit the road, traveling to Buckhannon to take on the Buccaneers.
Like the Knights, the BUMS team has also had several contests canceled due to a lack of officiates.
The matchup once again saw even play, with solid and strong defensive efforts from both teams along with connected passes in the mid-field, but scoring efforts for both were squandered by the sturdy back lines from each team, limiting scoring opportunities.
Knight stand out Bryce Kelley did a great job keeping the back line locked down for TCMS recording six intercepts, which contributed to the scoreless first half.
During the second half is when things would start to pick up, and both groups would see the ball connect with the net.
At the mid-way point of the second, the Buccaneers had a throw-in deep in the Knights’ end near the goal. With a BUMS mid-fielder left open, he received the throw and was able to send the ball passed the TCMS goalie for the first score of the game, putting the Bucs ahead 1-0.
As time was wearing off the clock, the Knights were not ready to give the contest up and allow an easy victory.
TCMS worked their way down the field, nearing the Buckhannon goal with an excellent display of teamwork, passing the ball as they moved forward.
With Knight Noah Uhl being pressed by the defense, he selflessly sent it out to teammate Kaige Andrews on the wing. From there, Andrews struck the ball hard, bouncing it off of one of the defenders to find the back of the net and even the score with less than four minutes to go.
“I tell the boys that they miss 100 percent of the shots they don’t take. There are no extra points for driving the ball hard to the back of the net. Sometimes you just have to rip it and see what happens,” voiced Uhl. “Kaige did just that, and good things happened.”
Now, with a tie game and the momentum they needed to take the lead, time was not in their favor, with the remaining minutes ticking away before it was possible for the Knights to put another play together, ending the contest in a 1-1 tie.
"I told the boys after the game how proud I was of them. This team has more heart than any team I’ve coached. They make me proud every time they step on the pitch,” Uhl shared.
Individual player stats vs. West Fairmont:
Ray Sarceno: 1 steal, Cameron Gray: 2 intercepts, Charlie Halfin:2 intercepts, 1 steal, Gage Alexander: 4 intercepts, Brayden Bailey: 2 intercepts, Kaige Andrews: 1 intercept, Noah Foley: 4 intercepts, 1 steal, Bryce Kelley: 6 intercepts, 4 steals, Noah Uhl: 1 intercept, Tyler Clemm: 6 saves.
Individual player stats vs. Buckhannon:
Grayson Gobel: 1 intercept, Cameron Gray: 1 shot, 2 intercepts, Charlie Halfin: 1 steal, 5 intercepts, Brayden Bailey: 4 intercepts, Kaige Andrews: 2 shots, 1 goal, Noah Foley: 5 intercepts, Bryce Kelley: 5 steals, 4 intercepts, Noah Uhl: 1 steal.