Hurricane gets 1st title
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hurricane coach Jim Dagostine has insisted all season that his team would be formidable whether or not he started three foreign-exchange students.
The Redskins proved that theory Wednesday on the biggest stage as seniors Evan Miles and Alex White scored one goal apiece in leading Hurricane past Parkersburg 2-0 in the Class AAA boys high school soccer state championship game at Schoenbaum Soccer Stadium in Coonskin Park. A vocal crowd of about 400 attended the matchup of the top two squads in the state.
Dagostine had quite a task on his hands this season in blending seniors Felipe Thompson, who is from Chile, and Brazilians Rodrigo Bevaqua and Matheus Morgan with the rest of an already talented team. The Redskins also had to overcome accusations and heckling from opponents and fans directed at the exchange students.
"We had some cookouts and we became great friends,'' said White. "We're all great friends and we all love soccer. I'm glad they came in. They're great kids, too.
"They're not just soccer players, they're great friends. After a few games we realized, 'This is what this player does and this is what this player does.' We changed a few things and everything just ended up great.''
Hurricane (23-0-1), which finished the regular season No. 1 in the state coaches association rankings, captured the school's first soccer title. The Redskins cruised past Hedgesville 4-0 in Tuesday's semifinals.
The Redskins, who were making their fourth appearance in six years at states and third straight, were runners-up in 2007 after losing to George Washington 1-0 in the championship game.
Hurricane also dropped a 2-1 decision on a penalty-kick shootout to Wheeling Park in the 2010 semifinals and fell to eventual state champion GW 1-0 in last year's semis. And quite possibly Hurricane's best team, which was undefeated, nationally ranked and unscored upon, didn't even make states in 2009 after getting upset in the sectional finals.
Since Dagostine took over the Hurricane program in 2006, the Redskins have posted a 127-20-13 record, including three undefeated regular-season marks. Hurricane had never advanced to states until 2007.
"There's a lot of people that never thought they'd see this, especially in soccer, at Hurricane High School,'' said Dagostine, whose team had to fight through No. 14 Nitro and No. 4 Winfield (sectionals), No. 3 Huntington (regionals) and No. 16 Hedgesville and No. 2 Parkersburg (states).
"I'm happy for my boys. This is something they'll have for the rest of their lives. They've earned this. It's also for all those boys that worked so hard to get this program where it's at and to give these boys a foundation to build off. These boys took it and ran.''
Hurricane, which ended the regular season with a 1-1 tie against No. 2 Parkersburg (17-4-4) for its only blemish, controlled Wednesday's game from the outset but didn't have anything to show for its efforts until late in the opening half. Miles, a defender, turned an assist from Morgan into a 1-0 lead with 3:21 left before halftime.
Morgan put a shot on goal that deflected off a Big Reds' player and Miles, pushing up from his defensive position, was in front of the goal to wrangle the ricochet and put the ball inside the left post.
Senior defender Tyler Broadwater had Parkersburg's best shot at tying the game in the second half, but Hurricane junior keeper Tim Hayslett dived to slap away the direct kick from about 25 yards out. Hayslett, who played goalie for the first time this season then ended up starting midway through the year, turned in one save.
White chipped in an unassisted goal, which deflected off a Parkersburg defender, with 2:02 left in the game to seal the deal.
Parkersburg's defense held Thompson, who led the Kanawha Valley in scoring with 47 goals, scoreless for only the fifth time this season. Broadwater, who is considered by many as an all-state defender, marked Thompson throughout the game.
"He dominated the upper third [of the field],'' said Big Reds junior keeper Reid Strobl of Thompson. "It was just too much. They had a lot of good players that came through and made some good goals.''
Toward the end of the match the referee had to separate both teams' players, but order was restored quickly. When the clock hit zero the Hurricane players sprinted onto the field to celebrate while Dagostine found a quiet place on the bench and buried his head in his hands.
"[Other people] have really tried to tear this team apart,'' said the Hurricane coach. "At the [Mountain State Athletic] conference championship game when a lot of things happened, I think that's when our team finally came together. Everybody in every huddle from that point on, they wanted to get a job done. It's been special to watch this thing come together. I think all of us will take as much off the field.''
Parkersburg played in its ninth championship game and had its third runner-up finish to go with six titles. The Big Reds, who still haven't won a championship outside of Beckley, edged defending state champion GW 1-0 in the semis.
Reach Tommy R. Atkinson at email@example.com or 304-348-4811.