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West Shamokin boys soccer struggling to match last year's success

- West Shamokin sophomore Jake Hough (right) races for a ball during a game against Springdale earlier this season. Hough is one of several talented underclassmen for the Wolves.
West Shamokin sophomore Jake Hough (right) races for a ball during a game against Springdale earlier this season. Hough is one of several talented underclassmen for the Wolves.
- West Shamokin's Colton Henderson (left) races Springdale's Jared Cole to a ball during a game earlier this season. Henderson is a senior captain and a returning starter on defense.
West Shamokin's Colton Henderson (left) races Springdale's Jared Cole to a ball during a game earlier this season. Henderson is a senior captain and a returning starter on defense.
- West Shamokin's Zane Clowser (left) keeps the ball away from two Springdale defenders during a home game earlier this season. Clowser is one of the Wolves' primary offensive threats.
West Shamokin's Zane Clowser (left) keeps the ball away from two Springdale defenders during a home game earlier this season. Clowser is one of the Wolves' primary offensive threats.

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Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012, 1:06 a.m.
 

With slightly more than one half of its season complete, West Shamokin's boys soccer team is at a critical juncture.

The Wolves (2-7, 1-5) need a second-half surge to show they haven't regressed from a season ago, when they finished 6-9-1 to secure their best record since 2007. Second-year coach Jonathan Minteer considers that level of achievement sustainable, and he hopes West Shamokin is not headed back toward the struggles it endured in 2009 and ‘10.

“(Six wins) would show a consistency of success that I don't think this program had recently,” Minteer said. “I don't think I'd be satisfied, but I'd be content with that.”

From 2005-07, West Shamokin won seven games each season. The Wolves appeared poised to win at least that many a year ago, but they dropped five of their final six games.

Positives still emerged from the 2011 season. West Shamokin scored 32 goals and allowed 36. Confidence increased among the Wolves. Memories of the one-win 2010 season and winless 2009 campaign faded a bit.

West Shamokin wanted more wins this year. But the Wolves had doubts. Five seniors had graduated, including captains Matt Van Horn, Tom Skamai and Mike Mikita. The closing of Elderton High School eliminated a team that West Shamokin beat twice last year and once in 2010 — many of the former Bobcats actually became Wolves.

And WPIAL realignment removed Jeannette, another team West Shamokin beat twice in 2011, from Section 2-A.

A 2-1 win over St. Joseph in the third game of the season provided the Wolves an early source of optimism. They'd last defeated St. Joseph in 2008.

“It seemed like everyone was clicking in that game,” senior captain and sweeper Damon Craig said. “Everyone on offense was communicating well.”

“I was skeptical coming into the season, with us losing our three captains,” said senior captain and left back Colton Henderson, one of three returning defensive starters. “But a lot of great sophomores have stepped in and filled the void.”

Count Jake Hough among that group of gifted sophomores. He scored during West Shamokin's 3-2 nonsection win over Jeannette, which improved the Wolves to 2-2 at the time. Henderson and Craig described Hough as a rising star.

For now, Hough is a complement to West Shamokin's top offensive options, junior midfielder Zane Clowser and senior forward Matt Marsh, both of whom admit the Wolves struggle with transition play.

“We can get it on their side of the 50 (yard line),” Clowser said. “But we sometimes have trouble getting it to the 18 (yard box). Once we get it in the 18, we usually come out with a goal.”

West Shamokin's defense also has disappointed at times, despite experience along the back line and the return of junior Ryan Myers, who missed much of last season with a broken left hand. Through nine games, the Wolves allowed two more goals than they surrendered all of last season.

Six games remain on the schedule. The first in that stretch is at St. Joseph on Thursday. A win there might start a run. A loss might doom the season.

“I'd like to do better than last year,” Clowser said. “Just to show that we still can come out on top.”

Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at wwest@tribweb.com or 724-543-1303, Ext. 1321.

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