PARKERSBURG - When you are the two-time defending Class AAA state champions and the winners of four of the last five titles, it's only natural that your expectations heading into the 2010 season will be high.
That is indeed the case with the Parkersburg High School soccer team, which has enjoyed incredible success during its 22 years under its founder and only head coach, Don Fosselman.
Parkersburg averages 15 wins, 3 losses, 2 ties and 2 championships per season. It's a lofty average that is hard to maintain. But maintain it the Big Reds do. This is a program that expects to win, even though it suffered heavy graduation losses following last year's 2-0 win over Woodrow Wilson in the state title game.
Parkersburg's Sean McCloskey is picked up by keeper Spencer Griffey seconds after their the Big Reds won the state soccer title a year ago. PHS begins its quest for a three-peat on Friday.
Fosselman runs a program steeped in tradition as evidenced by the turnout of 53 former players, including 21 former all-state selections, for the annual alumni game. Walk into the locker room and you can't help but notice the New England Revolution uniform of former two-time all-stater Zak Boggs.
PHS lost 11 players from last year's team, but it returns half-a-dozen seniors, including three of the team's four captains. They are keeper Chad White, who served as the backup to two-time all-state selection Spencer Griffey; midfielder Harlan Gibson, who is the strongest player on the team; and forward David Gebhardt, who accounted for six points a year ago. Other seniors include forward George Capel, who has displayed a knack for scoring clutch goals when they are needed most; midfielder Josh Harmon, who is playing two sports this fall as he also is a standout on the PHS cross country team; and sweeper Ryan Schott., who is very fast and plays very aggressively.
The other captain is junior Brian Runyon, who led the team in scoring with 23 goals in 25 games a year ago. Runyon earned first team all-state honors as a sophomore and is in line to become the first three-time all-state selection in the history of PHS soccer.
"You either react or you anticipate,'' Fosselman said. "If you react, you're too slow. Brian anticipates. He sees the game develop before it happens. He makes the most intelligent runs I've ever seen.''
Other starters include sophomore Brian Moses, an outside midfielder who didn't play last year; junior defender Tyler Craft, a tough, physical player; junior forward Zack Bowman, a gifted player who has impressed Fosselman with his athleticism; Ian West, a junior marking back; sophomore midfielders Zac Wilcoxen and Garrett Kruger; junior defender Cody Merritt; and sophomore stopper Tyler Broadwater.
Fosselman had more than 50 players try out for the team and kept 37 on the roster, including three freshmen.
Fosselman demands his players uphold Parkersburg High's tradition and standard of excellence.
"Everything we do reflects on PHS,'' said Fosselman, who is assisted by Donnie Fosselman, Eric McCoy and Doug Swearingen.
The Big Reds open at 6 p.m. Friday at Stadium Field against Linsly, and return to action at 2 p.m. on Saturday versus Wheeling Park.