First Posted: 9/7/2009
What once was considered a second-tier sport behind the ruler of fall sports that is football, local teams have seen an increase in the demand for soccer at each school. That interest has bred success.
The statewide rankings of eurosportscoreboard.com rely heavily on Surry County teams, with three local squads residing in the Top 15 of the 1A and 2A rankings, as well as Elkin.
Mount Airy and East Surry are listed in the 1A rankings and Surry Central found a spot in the 2A listings.
While it is unlikely soccer will ever topple football for No. 1 in Surry Countys heart, the progress seen at some schools has been stunning.
Last season, East Surry toiled to a 5-10-1 record. The team now sits at 3-3 and is ranked No. 14 in the state in 1A. Coach Bill Hart, who hails from Jacksonville, said the western half of the state is drumming up interest in the game by promoting it. Hart said events like clinics and youth leagues make the sport more visible and accessible.
In Pilot Mountain, football, softball and baseball also round up their share of players. Despite the other sports, soccer is getting bigger and bigger without causing harm to the other teams.
Look at our football teams; theyre not suffering, Hart said. Weve been able to promote soccer to soccer players.
Look no further than the Pilot Mountain Youth Soccer Association for evidence of the games growth. Hart said more than 200 kids play in either the fall or spring leagues. The middle school team had 36 kids try out this year.
That just tells you Im going to have some tough decisions to make in the future, Hart said of tryouts in the coming years.
Mount Airy finished 10-7-1 last year, a nine-win improvement from the previous season. That coupled with a 3-3 start put the Granite Bears in the spotlight (they are ranked 12th in the state) and also drew the attention of interested athletes.
The fact that people have watched us play and are interested and like our style of play means were doing something right, Mount Airy coach Eric Leathers said. I think its also fun that soccer traditionally hasnt been a popular sport, at least since Ive been here, and we had 25 come out this year and only 18 last year.
Leather said those who decided to try out for the team found what they were looking for.
I think anytime you can have fun and win as a team, thats going to be attractive to other people, he said. Not a lot of kids grow up with the sport. Every kid that plays this year that never played it before says they wish they had played earlier.
Undefeated Surry Central (5-0) is ranked 14th in 2A.
A good start at North Surry could also draw some looks if the Greyhounds keep it up. After not fielding a team last year due to a lack of interest, the Greyhounds opened their season Sept. 1 with a 4-2 victory over North Stokes.
Any coach will say that rankings mean nothing, especially early in the season. The fans, however, will beg to differ. Hart said its not a bad thing that Surry County can put teams in the state rankings and drum up more interest in an already-hot sport.
It gives it that one more level and thats a blast, he said. I think it really builds excitement when fans can see their teams ranked.
Contact Ed Phillipps at [email protected] or 719-1921.