Botetourt County high school athletic teams were expecting to be returning from spring break this week, but instead they’re at home trying to avoid the coronavirus pandemic. That includes a dozen boys who have faint hopes they haven’t played their last high school soccer game.
James River has seven seniors on this year’s roster while Lord Botetourt has five. The Virginia High School League hasn’t ruled out some kind of competition as of yet, but time is running out.
“I’m hopeful that we will get in a tournament at least,” said James River coach Jared Whiting. “These boys deserve some playing time and I’m thankful the VHSL is staying optimistic that we will get the chance to play and not throwing in the towel until it becomes necessary.”
Whiting was excited about a solid defensive group and midfielders and forwards who were developing good chemistry. River lost some size from last year but added some quickness. River seniors include Jack Berry, Owen Kristnitski, Thomas Laughridge, Andrew Lucas, Luke Peay, Caleb Shipwash and Zane Weidman.
“All of us hate it, especially for the seniors, that they may have possibly playing their last game,” said Whiting. “We have a very diversified roster this year with true ‘character.’ It was really going to be a fun and very entertaining season, just a great bunch of guys.”
At Lord Botetourt coach Tim Wright graduated a dozen seniors from last year’s team but was excited about what he had returning. LB’s numbers were down but they expected to have a strong defense, and the Cavaliers shut out both Radford and Cave Spring in the Cave Spring Jamboree that was held before everything came to a stop. Botetourt has five seniors, Hunter Vassar, Ryan Rigatti, Terran Baker, Micah Rich and Lance Dalton.
“Such a huge bummer for sure,” said Wright. “I am still keeping in touch with my guys through a group messaging app. Also, I am making it a point to call and speak with each player as the weeks go by. I hope and truly think there is a chance in the summer to play an abbreviated season.”
Both teams were expecting good seasons. For Whiting, it’s been a long time since he hasn’t been involved in soccer at this time of year.
“It definitely has left a void in the spring not having the season going,” he said. “After 24 years of coaching soccer at different levels it is tough not having the practices, the games, the late night bus trips home, the wins, the losses, the talks after practice and games. I’m still carrying some of the soccer gear in my truck as I don’t have the heart to pack it away yet for the season. I guess we are all mostly focused on beating this virus, and rightly so, but soccer crosses my mind every afternoon when its practice time. I wish we could get back on the field and play.”
Wright has found things to do at home to pass the time.
“I recently purchased a house and am using this time to work on it,” he said. “I’m coming to find that a homeowner’s job is never done!”