Photo: Hokes Bluff High soccer coach John Gibbs addresses his team following a recent practice. (Chris McCarthy/Messenger)
By Chris McCarthy, Publisher/Editor
After several years of planning, fundraising and field clearing, Hokes Bluff High School will finally field boys and girls varsity soccer teams this spring.
According to head coach John Gibbs, the boys’ roster includes 26 players, while the girls’ team has 18 members. With those numbers, both teams will also be able to field a junior varsity team.
The teams will practice and host home games on the soccer field next to Hokes Bluff City Park off Alford Bend Road.
“This has come about through a lot of hard work by a whole lot of people, before I even got involved,” said Gibbs, a 1980 Gaston High School graduate who works as a paraprofessional at Hokes Bluff schools. “We probably had enough kids [to field a team] a few years ago, but everything kind of clicked and came together this year.”
Gibbs said the support from the community, both physical and financial, has been overwhelming.
“We had a Field Day this past Saturday, and a huge number of people turned out to help get the field ready.
“The [soccer] goals were going to be around $4,000, but the Big Oak Garage built them and donated them to us.
“As far as volunteers are concerned, there’s just way too many people to mention who’ve help out in one way or another, and I don’t want to leave anyone out.”
Gibbs’ coaching career began when his son switched from baseball to soccer in sixth grade.
“He’s played in the fall and spring leagues, and that’s how I got started. I’ve helped and watched other people coach, and we’ve got several people helping who know a lot about soccer.”
Assisting Gibbs with the boys will be Jeff Elder and Jeremy Jarrells, while Melissa Marsh, Kevin Blackwell, and Lovette will help with the girls.
Gibbs expects both teams to be competitive in the program’s inaugural season, as a number of players have several years of either club or rec soccer under their belts.
“I do think we’ll win some games,” he said. “The boys stuck with playing soccer from middle school on, and we’re hoping that the girls who played rec soccer at a young age will now play at the middle school and high school.”
The Eagles belong to Class 1A/3A Area 6 along with Glencoe, Collinsville, Susan Moore, Brindlee Mountain and Sylvania.
“The first year is always going to be tough, and the main thing is we want to play competitive and build as the year goes on,” said Gibbs. “We scheduled two tournaments before the regular season starts so that the kids can experience what a real game is like.”
Senior midfielder Daylan Day, who played se-veral years of competitive soccer with the local Fusion FC, said that playing for his school is a dream come true.
“I’ve been waiting for this seventh grade, so it’s really exciting,” he said. “Ever since Coach Gibbs told us that this season was on, we’ve been preparing for it. It’s mostly going to be a learning year, and me and other seniors are here to make an impact on the younger guys and keep this thing going forward. I just can’t wait to get out there and play.”
Senior attacking midfielder Elizabeth Lovette is also a veteran player, starting in rec ball at the age of three. She played competitively with the local Alabama Rush club.
“It’s so great to finally being able to play for my school,” she said. “I think the whole community is excited to see everybody out there.
Hokes Bluff open the season on February 22 at home against Donoho. The Eagles kick off area play on March 15 at home against Susan Moore.