Your Prep Sports
WEST BRANCH – When Ted Miller started the West Branch soccer program from scratch two years ago he had a singular goal.
Miller wanted soccer to be fun.
“I’ve coached soccer for 19 years from kindergarten all the way now up to varsity and that’s always been my goal is to have fun,” Miller said. “I want kids to leave practices excited to come back the next day. I want kids to have fun, that’s more important to me than anything.”
There is nothing more fun in soccer than scoring goals and winning matches and the Bears have been doing plenty of both this season.
West Branch continued its red-hot start with an 7-1 win over Bellevue Marquette (2-4) Tuesday on a chilly evening in West Branch.
The win was the third straight to open the season for West Branch which went 7-5 in its varsity debut season two years ago.
“It’s definitely been a blast so far,” West Branch senior Cael Fiderlein said. “We started this program two years ago, we didn’t get to play last year which was a bummer, but this year we started recruiting some older guys and getting some more freshmen out and it’s been a blast so far. I think we just really gel together.”
The lone expectations for West Branch in its debut season in 2019 was having fun but the Bears made major strides, winning five of their final seven matches.
Fun remains the major focus, that much is evident in the way West Branch players and coaches approach the game.
Only this season other goals have begun to pop up, most notably improving on the seven wins for two years ago.
“We went 7-5 the first year and we really wanted to up our game this year,” Fiderlein said. “We worked hard to get our fundamentals down and we wanted to improve from where we were two years ago.”
Thanks to an early-season scoring explosion from junior forward Peyton Miller the Bears are having fun, winning matches and on pace to set a new single season win total.
Miller scored five goals for the second consecutive game on Tuesday, upping his season total to 13 which ranks fifth in the state.
“It’s a long game you can’t be strictly business the whole game you have to have some fun out here,” Peyton Miller said. “We try our best to have a lot of fun.”
Miller struck quickly on Tuesday giving West Branch a quick 2-0 cushion with a pair of goals in the opening 15 minutes of action.
“That first goal is just a huge momentum piece, I don’t care of its 30 seconds into the game or 30 minutes into the second half,” Ted Miller said. “It’s just a confidence builder.”
Miller had a hat trick in the first half when he slipped a shot from the left side of the box into the lower right corner of the goal to put West Branch up 3-0.
“It’s for sure an energy thing and I believe that we will come out with more energy than any team in the state,” Peyton Miller said. “We don’t have anything to lose and that makes us more dangerous than other teams. We are just playing to have fun and when we get that first spark we aren’t letting it die.”
Junior Gage Gingerich, who helped the West Branch golf team to a team title at the Wildcat Invitational in Durant during the afternoon, added two goals in the second half as West Branch pulled away.
“It’s just like in baseball when somebody gets a hit and the whole team just rises,” Ted Miller said. “That’s what I see with these kids.”
Miller, Kelby Burger and Fiderlein all assisted on goals for West Branch on Friday.
That’s correct, the goal had an assist as Fiderlein boomed a kick into Bellevue Marquette territory and Gingerich finished the play with a header.
“Cael played exceptionally well,” Ted Miller said. “He knows the game, he’s a great goalie, he’s a good communicator and I thought he played super well.”
Fiderlein, a Central College football recruit, had 10 saves in goal on Tuesday and is one of many Bears enjoying the opportunity to play soccer.
The senior brings a fearless approach to playing keeper, venturing sometimes as far as midfield with the ball at his feet.
“Coach is all for it, he wants me to be aggressive,” Fiderlein said. “I think I’ve been playing goalie since kindergarten and I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with it. I always have a blast back there with my buddies.”
West Branch will try to keep its winning streak alive when it starts a stretch of three consecutive road games next Tuesday at Monticello (0-2).
The Bears follow with road games at Bellevue Marquette and Prince of Peace (2-3).
“Since we are our so early in our program we just want to get out here and show people how much fun it is,” Peyton Miller said. “We are just kind of setting up for the future right now but we are going to go as far as we can let ourselves. It’s totally up to us.”