By J. Daniel Rollins
Register-Herald Sports Writer
Southern West Virginia King’s Warriors head coach Scott Reitnour had a busy day Saturday.
Not only was his squad scheduled to play its first game of the season, but his amateur club in North Carolina was playing for a chance to advance to the North Carolina State Cup.
After some transportation issues, there was concern the second-year coach was even going to be able to make it to the game.
“I got here maybe 5 or 6 minutes into the match,” Reitnour said.
There must have been some shock on his face when he looked at the scoreboard and saw a score that read West Virginia Chaos 1, King’s Warriors 0. Thankfully, Reitnour was able to breathe freely after 90 minutes as the King’s Warriors defeated their in-state rival 3-1 in the first leg of the 2013 Coal Cup Clash.
The King’s Warriors conceded an early unassisted goal by the Chaos’ James Pucci just five minutes into the game. It could have been enough to shake the confidence of the young King’s Warriors team, but just as their name would suggest, they kept fighting on.
“For a split second I was like, ‘Oh, no,’ but then was like we just had to step up and believe in ourselves,” King’s Warriors defender Harry Sherwood said.
The pesky Chaos controlled the ball for much of the first half of the game, pressing on the attack but never able to penetrate the solid defensive wall of Sherwood, Carter Robbins and goalkeeper Erik Mozzo.
“I think that’s what’s expected from Harry and Carter and Erik. Those are kind of the big guys that returned from last year’s team,” Reitnour said. “They were the heart and soul of the team and they’re still the heart and soul of the team. I mean, bottom line, they’re tough to score on.”
The Chaos went into the half leading 1-0. That’s when the adjustments were made and youth and speed took over.
“We told the guys at halftime that if we get one goal we’ll get two or three,” Sherwood said.
That’s exactly what happened.
Just three minutes into the second half of play, newcomer Billy Forbes shot a rocket off a pass from Mikey Robinson that clanked off the left post and into the goal to bring the game even.
“We’re really excited to have Billy with us this season,” Reitnour said. “We think he adds creativity, flair, pace and as you saw tonight, an ability to finish. That’s what our team needed.”
Sixteen minutes later, another newcomer, Zari Prescod rebounded a shot off of the keeper’s gloves and drilled it into the top right corner of the net to give the King’s Warriors a 2-1 lead.
“I think Zari on the other side (of Billy), it really pulls teams apart at the back,” Reitnour said. “Because if we hold our width through the middle of the final third, you gotta respect both of those guys.”
Forbes wasn’t done with just one goal.
After Miguel Teos shook a pair of Chaos defenders, he found Forbes open and ready. Forbes pounded it home for the decisive 3-1 goal.
“Feels good, feels good, feels good!” Forbes said after the game. “I know I have a group of guys that are going to back me up. We’re going to get the win at the end of the game. That’s what matters.”
“Get that first goal, cracking the nut, was huge for us,” Reitnour said. “It eliminated a little bit of the doubt, I think the guys started believing in each other. That was huge.”
The victory gave the King’s Warriors those all important first three points to open the season. They’re currently in second place with a game in hand in the South Atlantic Division, trailing the Carolina Dynamo who have opened the season 2-0-0.
“The first win of the season, it’s always antsy,” Mozzo said. “You want to get it as quick as possible. Getting it in the first game, it sets the bar for the rest of the season. We expect nothing less out of each other. I believe compared from the first game of last season, the level is way higher. We expect nothing less than winning.”
The King’s Warriors will continue their “road to amazing” next Saturday night as they welcome the SC United Bantams to Beckley. First kick will be at 7 p.m.
— E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and follow on Twitter at @JDanielRollins.