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Jared Morgan

Jared Morgan

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-- Former George Washington High soccer star Ethan Kirk has played the game for a long time.Besides prep soccer, Kirk has traveled enough with his club team and played in the U.S.

Youth Soccer regional enough to know what the real score is ...

and it's not necessarily the one on the scoreboard.But with the USYC Region I championships scheduled in Barboursville this weekend and with his team looking stronger than ever, Kirk is hoping the time has come for a change."The standard used to be if you didn't lose by three goals you did a good job," he said.

"Now, we want to win."Only one West Virginia team has won a Region 1 title - the 1997 Rowdies' boys 12 and under team which will be honored at Thursday afternoon's Region 1 opening ceremonies at Marshall University's Edwards Stadium.Kirk is part of this season's U18 squad representing the Mountain State and he knows that another championship would be huge especially with the state hosting."If we win," he said.

"There will be three soccer fields spring up out of nowhere."Patriot players besides Kirk are goalie Connell Green, midfielder Zach Claudio and defender Ian Thistlewaite.There also are four players from Cabell Midland and four from Huntington High on the Charleston Futbol Club Elite team this year.The Knights are Kyle Adkins, Kyle Ryder, Tyler Kennedy and Alex Molina.

Huntington High provides a link between the 1997 championship team and this year's CFC Elite squad in Jamel Boukhemis.He is the brother of former Highlander and Marshall standout Karim Boukhemis - a key performer on that 1997 squad.Other Huntington players are Patrick Domass, Garith Duncan and Erik Dyonsson.Princeton All-State forward Kenny Chambers leads the squad in scoring.

Beckley has two players on the squad, in Jared Morgan and Derek Law.Luke Grome from Huntington St.

Joseph, Ryan McWatters from Hurricane and Winfield's Dustin Atik complete the roster.This is the fourth consecutive year the core group - under one club name or another - has qualified for Youth Region 1 play."We haven't been above .500 in any of the four years," Coach Thomas Olivier said.

"So that's what we are looking for, of course."He thinks it is a very realistic goal, although his last three teams are 0-8-1 and have been outscored 30-4 in the regional.Recent results back up Olivier's confidence.After an 0-2-2 showing in the huge Raleigh (N.C.) Shootout tournament in the fall, the CFC Elite won a preseason tournament in the spring in Lexington, Ky., with a 3-0-1 record, then finished 1-1-1 at the tough Columbus (Ohio) Showcase event a few weeks ago."This is the best team we've put together," Olivier said.

"The last couple of years, we just wanted to show up but the mentality is different this year."Atik agrees."We've struggled in the regional the last couple of years; I don't even know if we've won a game," he said.

"This is definitely our best team this year, though."Kirk added: "West Virginia has had a bad reputation playing out-of-state for years.

So you want to change that."Having the tournament played a short drive away is very important to Atik, who will play for West Virginia Wesleyan in the fall."(My parents) work a lot so this is going to be the first regional they've seen me play in," he said.

"My dad pushed me to play since I was young and I love it, so I am basically playing for him now."However, it's not just for his dad."High school is like you are representing your school," Atik said.

"This is a whole lot larger, you are representing your state."And it's in front of West Virginia fans this time."When you go out-of-state you don't know anyone there," Kirk said.

"Here, you want to do well in front of your family and friends."The CFC Elite team faces Eastern Pennsylvania Premier League at 8 a.m.

Friday on Barboursville City Park's No.

5 field."We got a pretty good draw," Olivier said.

"We feel pretty good about our chances."Rhode Island and New York West complete the four-team group for pool play.Pool play is scheduled through Sunday, with single-elimination semifinal play Monday and the championship matches on Tuesday.Contact sportswriter J.T.

Simms at [email protected] or 304-348-1735.
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