RED JACKET - The Mingo Central boys soccer team had their best season in program history a year ago in only head coach Noah Rhodes second season leading the Miners.
They finished the season with a record of 12-9-3, which doubled the previous single season wins total in school history of six in the 2016 season. They won more games in 2018 alone than the previous four years combined. They also scored the most goals in a single season than ever before and they had the least amount of goals scored against them.
They won two playoff games over Greater Beckley Christian and Shady Spring and then advanced to their first ever sectional championship game at seasons end. They broke nearly every school record except for one as it was truly a record breaking season on Miner Mountain.
Fast forward to the 2019 season and the Miners look to carry over and build on that success from a year ago.
"I feel good about this upcoming year, I expect another 10-win season," Rhodes said in an interview with the WDN. "The schedule is tougher but we are going to be better this year. We lost a couple kids but we gained a lot. We have 14 freshmen out this year, and every single one of them has played before so they will be able to give me valuable minutes while everybody that played last year has worked hard and gotten better in the offseason."
The Miners only lost five seniors off the team a year ago and return a lot of experienced talent including seniors Josh Wellman, Garrett Noe, Malik Gray and Ethan Mendoza.
"Josh (Wellman) is looking a lot better so far and so is Malik (Gray)," Rhodes said. "Garrett Noe continues to look great and I know Ethan Mendoza will be good for us but he's been gone this summer. We also have sophomores Tyler Slone and Tucker Wellman back as well as Justin May at goalie, so we have a lot of experience. And then freshman Kelan Wallace is already a stud and will help us tremendously. He and freshman Peyton Sansom both will see some playing time."
Rhodes said he can see the interest in soccer growing immensely since he took over the program and said he had 37 guys come out just for the three-week practice period in mid-June.
"Our numbers are way up this year," the third year coach said. "We'll have enough guys for a full varsity roster as well as a full JV team. We started having open field in May where kids could come up and kick around and then went right into the practice period in June and hit it hard. Everybody has been working hard and getting after it"
The Miners participated in a scrimmage up in Charleston and played against George Washington, Herbert Hoover, and Nitro in three tight games and also tied with Sheldon Clark 2-2 and defeated Tug Valley 6-1.
Rhodes said that the three-week practice period was very beneficial to his club and also gave credit to the middle school programs for helping build the success being seen at the high school level.
"It's great that we have the middle school programs now, we're finally getting kids who have played soccer all through middle school and maybe even before rather than just a kid that has played one year or maybe never at all," Rhodes said. "So the practice period is good for getting the new kids mixed in with the returning guys and just getting some team chemistry for the upcoming season. It really helps out a lot and will make life a lot easier come August."
Soccer has only been offered at the middle school level in Mingo County since the year 2015.
Rhodes said that he" beefed" the Miners schedule up with some tougher teams this year in order to try and prepare them better for another deep run in the playoffs.
They play every team in the tough Cardinal Conference, including Logan, Chapmanville, and Scott two times each and also have games scheduled against South Charleston, Ravenswood, Harlan County, Kentucky as well as sectional foes Pikeview, Bluefield, James Monroe, and Shady Spring.
Rhodes, who is a native of Williamson and a 2016 grad from MCHS, also coaches the girls soccer team for Mingo Central as well as the tennis teams while also being a full-time student at Marshall majoring in Business Administration and managing the H&R Block in downtown Williamson.
He will be assisted once again this season by fellow 2016 grad Josh Murphy. The Miners will make their season debut on Aug. 24 at home against James Monroe.
Jarrid McCormick is a sports reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He can be reached by email at jmccormick@HDMediaLLC.com.