gw boys photo (copy)

University’s Joseph Biafora (left) and teammate Mason Shockley (right) defend against George Washington’s Zak Abdul-Jalil (18) in the Class AAA boys semifinal game in Beckley.

MORGANTOWN — University boys soccer coach Dustin Talton still remembers what one of Joseph Biafora’s middle school coaches told him years ago, long before the future WVU commit stepped foot on the pitch at Mylan Pharmaceuticals Stadium.

“When he first came in as a freshman, another coach said to me, ‘This kid is going to score goals for you,’” Talton said.

Fast-forward four years and Biafora lived up to that promise. Biafora capped his senior season with 49 goals and 13 assists, anchoring a Hawks unit that would cruise to an undefeated regular season and a spot in the Class AAA state semifinals before bowing out to George Washington. His performance was good enough to earn 2018 West Virginia Sportswriters Association Player of the Year honors.

“As a freshman, I saw the older guys from around the state getting these awards and I wanted to be a part of the fun,” he said. “I did everything to be the best I could possibly be and it paid off.”

Biafora’s story is one of passion for the sport, Talton said. You’ll never get anything less than 100 percent from him when he laces up the cleats.

“I think he’s always had that raw passion, that emotion, that drive — he’s matured as he got older, as he focused and had a goal in mind,” he said. “That doesn’t show up in the stat book, but I knew every game I would get his best effort. You don’t always get that. We only played two games this year where he didn’t score. He shows up every day and puts his best out there.”

Biafora was graced with plenty of talent, of course — Talton describes him as having a “natural talent for scoring the ball.” But he knew he could stretch that talent far and develop a truly special game if he trained for it.

“Talent can only bring a player so far and that’s not what made me successful,” Biafora said. “I’ve been working my butt off my whole life to get to this point.”

Of course, there’s still a lot to be said for the skill Biafora possesses, his knowledge of the game and his instincts on the pitch.

“It’s kind of crazy,” Talton said. “I’ve grown up around the game. There are guys that just have a knack to defend, or distribute, and then you have guys like [Biafora] — his soccer IQ and how he plays the game, he knows how to put himself into position.”

Biafora played the game for so long, though, that what seems impressive to the average coach, fan or player is second nature for him. How much of it came naturally and how much was developed through practice seems irrelevant, what matters is that when he shows up to play, he can usually be counted on to display that talent.

“I just play. I go out every game with the same mindset — I’m out there trying to have fun and that’s what the game brings me,” he said. “I don’t have a style of play and I don’t overthink everything.

“All my problems go away and I don’t think about anything but playing. Goals just come naturally from playing the game. I let the game do the work and when my opportunity comes I take it.”

Biafora may be leaving the halls of UHS, but his impact won’t be forgotten soon.

“It’s not only that it gave us success over the past four years, but he has helped the younger players along the way,” Talton said. “They’ve learned a lot from getting to play with him. He’ll have a longstanding impact, and that’s a plus for the future of the program.”