Youth program paying off for West Allegheny boys soccer
It was one of those good kind of problems to have. The type the West Allegheny boys soccer program would have killed to encounter in the early part of the past decade.
The Indians solved it with what appeared to be relative ease.
A senior class that had an abundance of quantity and quality graduated from last season's 15-3-1 West Allegheny team.
That the Indians had comparable replacements capable of stepping in and producing almost identical results shows how far the program has come.
West Allegheny is 14-2, shared the Section 5-AA championship with Quaker Valley, is the No. 3 seed in the WPIAL Class AA playoffs and will host Waynesburg at 8 p.m. Monday in a first-round game.
“We're most definitely satisfied with this regular season,” Indians coach Kevin Amos said.
“Being that we lost 12 or 13 people last year, there were a lot of starters coming into this season whom we knew had the skills but maybe we didn't know how they'd react to this level and this situation. So it's always good to have a season like this.”
Seasons like this have become more the rule than the exception in recent years for West Allegheny, which has averaged more than 14 wins per season in posting five consecutive winning records.
Contrast that to the previous five-year span in which the Indians averaged four wins per season from 2003-07.
“The program really wasn't good at all,” senior midfielder Eric Jackson said. “I really don't know what the problem was, but it's gradually gotten better to the point where things are good.”
Jackson, a four-year starter, points to the class that graduated just before he entered high school and included his brother, Andy, for turning the corner on the program and setting a new standard.
It was one of the first tangible benefits at the varsity level from a revamped and enhanced youth program that Amos ran for several years. Amos said the numbers in the developmental program have more than doubled.
“It's up to 400 kids now, and that's kind of built a foundation in the early years,” Amos said. “You really had to have the JV and varsity program get there and then you have people saying, ‘Hey, something might be happening.' Now we're seeing the fruits of all that labor all the time. The kids who have been in the West Allegheny youth program all those years, that's led to 10 or 12 kids every year (joining the high school teams), and when you have 30 or 40 kids in the high school program, usually you'll have some pretty good seasons.”
The Indians have an experienced core of Jackson, senior outside midfielder Brent Perry and junior center fullback Zach Graziani. Jackson is a four-year starter, and Perry and Graziani are in their third seasons as starters.
Other senior starters include Mitchell McLaughlin and defender Adam LaRue. Junior midfielder Nick Jaroszynski is another experienced player.
Collin Wurst is only a sophomore, but he leads the Indians with 20 goals.
“He's a highly intelligent player,” Amos said, praising Wurst but also being quick to point out that a striker is only one position and that West Allegheny has benefited from all 11 players handling their roles.
“There's a lot more team chemistry this season,” Jackson said. “Everyone knows to work hard and work at what they need to work at to be successful, and it shows.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.