POWHATAN -- After losing all of last season to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Blessed Sacrament Huguenot Knights have yet to lose a game in this one, rolling out a season-opening 2-1 triumph over Richmond Christian on Monday and a 4-1 home-opening victory over Kenston Forest on Wednesday.
“It’s incredible,” BSH head soccer coach Patrick Winterrowd said of getting to have this 2021 season, “because we could very easily have not had any games, and so every single game feels special this year. It was the same way with football, and we know from our experience with football that it can end suddenly, and so we’re going to take every day at practice as a positive, and every game (that we can get) as a positive, because the kids need it, and they deserve it.
“They’ve been waiting a long time for this...this is really special for them. It’s really special especially for my seniors, Emily Smith and Michael Timmons,” Winterrowd said. “This is their year. They’ve worked a long time for this, and I want to make it good for them.”
Timmons scored the first three of his team’s six goals through the first two games. After he tied Monday’s match with Richmond Christian at 1-1, Timmons scored what ended up being the game-winning goal on a penalty kick with 90 seconds left.
“He had his shooting boots on, for sure,” Winterrowd said. “It was just clutch - it’s his senior year, I’m really proud of him. He’s a captain, and he showed up.”
And despite not feeling well during Wednesday’s home game versus Kenston Forest, Timmons was aggressive throughout his minutes on the field, and he delivered yet another game-tying kick when he rushed the ball down and scooted it into the netting on a sliding kick across the grass.
“He’s always in the thick of it,” Winterrowd said of Timmons. “I’m trying to get the other kids to play with that kind of intensity, aggression.”
And one of Timmons’ teammates, sophomore Jackson Hawkins, stepped up in a huge way in Wednesday’s second half. With a rocketing kick, he sailed the ball just inside the left goal post to put the Knights ahead 2-1. He would soon launch another air-ball at the net, with this one making it over the goalie’s head. A BSH teammate was also there in front of the netting to ensure that the ball went in.
Hawkins from there elevated his team’s lead to 4-1 when he crossed in a long ground ball.
“He’s not a vocal leader, he’s a kid that leads by example. He’s always hustling to the ball, always stopping the ball when you need him to, he’s hustling back on defense,” Winterrowd said of Hawkins. “He’s always there when we need somebody to make a play.”
Both games were tales of two halves, as the Knights were down early against both opponents and had their struggles in the first halves of both matches. But they bounced back in both second halves to emerge victorious for a 2-0 season start.
In the case of Wednesday’s game, Winterrowd said they had a chat about being aggressive and not being passive - about taking the ball in the air, taking it from opponents’ feet, taking people on when they have the ball, and making things happen as opposed to waiting for them to happen.
“I think it came through,” Winterrowd said, “because they definitely hustled a lot better. For whatever reason, as a young team, we tend to come out slow. We kind of have to build up into it.”
The players on Wednesday were also dealing with unexpectedly strong winds that affected the carry on the ball and made the 60-degree evening feel almost like a winter day.
But the strange conditions ultimately didn’t keep the Knights from putting together a 4-0 second half.
“The kids fought their hearts out today,” Winterrowd said. “It was great.”
The Knights overall are young and inexperienced to begin this 2021 season, but the younger players have returning leaders to look up to in seniors Timmons and Smith, as well as Hawkins and keeper Tyler Jenkins. Winterrowd said they can really count on Jenkins - whom he called a talented goalie - to help shift people around on defense, and Smith has a lot of experience playing in the back.
“She’s also got skill with the ball, which we also need,” Winterrowd said of Smith. “We’ve got a lot of athletic kids in the back, but not necessarily soccer kids, and she’s definitely a soccer player.”
As far as newcomers go, Winterrowd is really excited about center back Patrick Maynes, who has quickly made an impact.
“He’s been hustling - I know he’s a little banged up today, but he played through it,” Winterrowd said of Maynes, adding: “He’s got speed to cover for any mistakes that are made. He was really running today because he was going up for corners and then running all the way back to play defense, so he ran a ton today.”
Stephen Dinora has also been huge for the Knights, bringing the hustle alongside his teammate Maynes.
“We’ve really needed that,” Winterrowd said while adding: “I’ve been pleased with how some of the younger players have played...we’re getting help from sort of unexpected places. Some of the younger kids are really playing hard, really giving us good minutes, which we’ve been needing desperately.”
Sophomore Jeb Hatfield and eighth grader Ryder Hansen both contributed strong efforts on Wednesday, and freshman Will Fichter stepped up, with Winterrowd saying that he was much more assertive and aggressive with the ball. Fichter also made a couple of key passes inside the box that freed up his teammates for goals.
They’ve got the student-athletes who can shoot the ball, Winterrowd said, but he added that they’ve “got to play better defense.”
“That’s something we’ll be working on a lot at practice,” Winterrowd said. “We’ve played these games in kind of short conditioning compared to normal, so we’re still not back in the swing of things. We’re definitely going to be pushing conditioning between now and the end of the season. Normally we have a whole month of just conditioning before we start our first game. We had five days this time, so we’re going to be working on that.”
He added: “We’re going to be working on touch with the ball, and basically just confidence. A lot of the players just need confidence they’ll make the right pass, because I see a lot of hesitation in some of the newer kids. We’re just going to work through that. As young players, they just need some more experience.”
Near the end of Wednesday’s game, the Knights were able to empty the bench and not just enable their younger players to glean important gametime minutes and experience, but also “reward them for working hard in practice,” Winterrowd said.
The Knights will play at Isle of Wight Academy on Monday, April 26, at 4 p.m.
“That’ll be a huge test,” Winterrowd said. “They’re normally a very good team, a very solidly coached team, so we’ll have to play really well to beat them.”