Harrison Central gets its kicks, now, and for years to come

Eric Sheets played soccer, briefly, as a Bethany College student.

At the intramural level.

He’s coached softball.

At a “little kid” level.

Now, he’s leading the jumpstart Harrison Central boys soccer team.

At a competitive level.

“I’ve coached some junior varsity girls basketball and helped out with the varsity softball team,” Sheets said after the Huskies 2-0 win over Cambridge in a Division II sectional game. “But up until this year I never coached soccer.”

A first-year head coach and a first-year varsity program were the perfect combination for a history-making win on Oct. 14.

“It’s been a long time coming,” Sheets said. “The guys have been working hard trying to get a varsity program going. I’m excited for the kids.”

He’s banked on five seniors to lead the way and serve as de-facto assistant coaches.

“The coaching experience was there for me,” Sheets said. “But I had to familiarize with the intricacies of the game and that was a challenge at first.

“Luckily, I had the help of a great group of seniors who have been playing the game for a while, even without a high school team.”

In 2012, under the guidance of principal Brent Ripley, Harrison Central established a club team which only participated in three junior varsity games. It was the start of something special for the school district, for sure, but this year’s varsity squad has been years in the making.

“When we were younger I always hoped that we would have a high school team, but i never knew for sure,” said senior Geoff Pecar. “I’ve always wanted to keep playing as long as I could, so I played travel soccer and recreational soccer in Steubenville.

“It was never hard for me to get access to soccer games, but having a team at Harrison Central is now really special.”

Even moreso that he can share it with his younger brother, Conner.

“It is pretty cool,” Geoff said. “Since I’m graduating, it’ll be up to him and the other younger guys to carry the team.”

Conner will be ready for the challenge, like he’s been all his life.

“Geoff’s always pressured me to be a lot better,” Conner said. “I always tried to compete with him. He’s helped me become a much better player.”

David Forrester, a senior, entrusts the program that he helped establish in the hands of two younger siblings. James and Scott each see regular playing time as a freshman and sophomore.

“It’s almost disappointing that this is my last year,” David said. “This season was a great start to the varsity program and I’m glad I could be a part of it.”

Jonah Starr, a freshman, stepped up to be the team’s goaltender at the beginning of the season.

“I wasn’t really sure what to expect,” Starr said. “I had to step up and be the goalie, I just figured I’d try it and I love it. I give 100 percent each time.”

Just like his coach.

“It was a new experience and it’s been a rewarding experience,” Sheets said. “I just have a great group of kids who respect the game.”

Without the constant campaigning for a team by players like Geoff Pecar, there would still be a void during weekdays in the fall.

“It’s kind of a big honor to be part of the group to have the influence to get the school to start the program,” he said. “Ending the season with these wins and getting one in the first sectional game is kind of surprising.

“At the beginning of the year, I never would have thought we’d come this far.”

And there’s still places to go. Though the season came to an end, Pecar’s soccer career will still continue.

“If I can get on a team where I apply to school, I’d love to play,” he said. “I can’t imagine life without soccer.”

It’s a good thing the kids of Cadiz won’t have to anymore.

(Matthew Peaslee, a Youngstown native, is a sports writer at the Herald-Star and The Weirton Daily Times and can be contacted at mpeaslee@heraldstaronline.com or followed on Twitter at @thempeas.)