Many youngsters now play soccer in our state. For most children, soccer is the first sport that they play, starting at the ages of 4 and 5.
But that was not always the case.
High school soccer is a varsity sport for both boys and girls. Again, that was not always the case. Like lacrosse today, soccer used to be a club sport.
Our state lost a significant piece of its soccer history with the passing last Sunday of John Duernberger, who was is one of the “fathers of soccer” in West Virginia. Sadly, he died at the Cleveland Clinic from an infection.
In an article from April 19, 1972, former Charleston sports writer Sam Hindman wrote about the first high school soccer game played in the state, a club sports match between Charleston High and DuPont High.
The development of soccer was the idea of two former Morris Harvey students, Duernberger and Chip Spencer, who were doing their student teaching in Kanawha County. Duernberger did his student teaching at the downtown Charleston High School, while Spencer did his at DuPont.
The first game was played in April of 1972 on the football field at DuPont. The teams really did not have uniforms, just T-shirts and socks.
DuPont defeated Charleston 2-1 on a goal by Mark Hundley that was assisted by Robbie Ryan. Ryan was also an offensive lineman on his school’s football team. He would go on to have a son, Alex, who would graduate from Winfield and go on to play soccer at Concord.
In his story on the game, Hindman noted the historical significance of the contest and the vision that Duernberger had for the growth of the sport in our state. Hindman also quoted DuPont cheerleader Veda Harris who said “there is an awful lot of running around just to score a goal that counts only one point. Goals should be worth six points like they are in football.”
Soccer enthusiasts in our state owe a debt of gratitude to the vision of John Duernberger. He helped start the growth of the sport here. He was also a great player. He came to Morris Harvey from Larchmont, New York, and played from 1968-71. He was inducted into the school’s athletic Hall of Fame in 2010. Duernberger’s youngest son, Chad, is now an assistant men’s soccer coach at Dartmouth.
n I also recently learned that former Dunbar basketball standout Harvey Chester passed away in late May in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Chester was a starter on the 1972 Dunbar basketball team that lost to Warren Baker and Greenbrier East in the 1972 Class AAA state championship game. Other Dunbar starters on that team were Ron Bernard, Ezra Chambers, Henry Harmon and Doug Spry. Bill Maxwell was the coach.
Chester went on to play for Curt Price at West Virginia State.