Soccer Coach Has 1st-Place Aspirations
By Brian Pitts
Davie Enterprise Record
Mt. Tabor captured the Central Piedmont Conference championship in soccer in 2013 by going 11-1 against league foes.
But graduation hit Tabor hard. It was a dogfight between the rest of the league members, with Reagan going 8-3-1, West Forsyth 4-5-3, North Davidson 3-6-3, Davie 4-7-1, Parkland 4-7-1 and Reynolds 3-8-1.
Davie went 8-11-1 overall, finishing fifth out of seven, as several underclassmen played key roles.
Fast forward to ’14 and there might not be an outright favorite in the CPC. Davie’s second-year coach, 28-year-old Kenneth Ham, believes first place is an attainable goal for the title-starved War Eagles. Maybe the 27th try will be the charm.
A first-place finish would be very special for a program that’s never placed higher than fourth in the CPC. In fact, it has only enjoyed two winning seasons. Not only is Ham a believer in his ’14 team, he thinks Davie is capable of challenging for the top over the next few years.
“I’m excited about it,” he said. “Last year we had a bunch of sophomores (on varsity) and my goalie was a freshman. So we have a lot more (varsity) experience this year. Last year a lot of teams in our conference had 17, 18 seniors. Mt. Tabor had 19 seniors. With the experience we were able to get last year, I think we’re going to be really good, and we’re only going to get better as the season goes.”
The top two scorers from ’13 are gone. Davie does return the No. 3 scorer in Jorge Hernandez, who put in nine goals.
“And we have done a lot of work this summer and played a lot of soccer,” Ham said. “The other team in our conference that had a lot of young players was Reagan. Mt. Tabor, West Forsyth and North Davidson were mostly seniors. I took a risk playing a lot of young guys last year, but it’s really going to help us this year. We’ll be right there, hopefully, at the end.”
The goalie is Foster Johnson, who started every varsity game as a freshman.
“I really liked how he played when I first got here,” Ham said. “He has just continued to improve. He’s gotten a lot taller. He worked hard all summer and he plays a lot on a club team.”
Hernandez, a senior center midfielder, is a college prospect in Ham’s eyes. “He’s extremely talented,” he said. “He lost weight since last year, and he’s gotten a lot quicker.”
The core of the team includes juniors Andrew Whitesell and Josh Harper. Whitesell is a defensive back who started every game of ’13. Harper is a center midfielder who also started throughout ’13.
“Andrew helped us a lot last year, so I’m pretty excited about him,” Ham said. “Josh was one of the best sophomores in our league last year. (Hernandez, Whitesell and Harper) are going to be three major players.”
Last year’s jayvee closed the season with an incredible fury, beating Reynolds, West Forsyth, Parkland and Tabor after losing to each one in the first meetings. Eric Rodriquez was a big reason why the jayvee closed so strong to finish 6-9. He scored five of his team-high eight goals in those four wins. Now he’s a sophomore forward on varsity.
“He improved a lot this summer,” Ham said. “He’s going to be pretty good. We’re going to have to get some goals from him for sure.”
Jimmy Dobbins, who coached jayvee for one year, has been replaced by Andrew Davis, a 25-year-old, second-year teacher at Davie.
“In my new position at the high school, I’m working with him,” Ham said. “When I found out he had a soccer background, we started talking.”
Davis played goalie for rival North Davidson during his high-school days.
“He’s always been involved in his local community in soccer,” Ham said. “He’s done some coaching in Twins. He’s going to help us a lot. He’s a really good coach. He knows a lot about goalies. That’s kind of his specialty, and that will help me out a lot.”
Ham is also excited about the freshman class. It is 14 deep. “That’s a really, really good sign,” he said. “I think last year we had eight freshmen, so it’s great to get that many out.”