FAIRMONT, W.Va. – The defending Class AA-A boys soccer state champions are hungry for another successful season and ultimately another trip to Beckley.
The Fairmont Senior boys soccer team feels they have the necessary weapons to win a third state championship for the program.
With losing three key starters to graduation, the Polar bears must replace the man between the pipes, a second team All-State defender and a forward who was known for scoring clutch goals.
While this task doesn’t seem easy, FSHS boys soccer head coach Darrin Paul seems to have it figured out.
“Well we have a keeper who, Eli Day, who stepped right in and he’s doing a very good job. Cale (Beatty) we’re going to slide him over into Seth’s position, Cale started last year for us, and we’ll probably move Nate Flower up top for Billy’s position. So transition wise, everything is going real smooth,” Paul said.
What team does return is talent in all three lines of the field, starting with junior Bubby Towns up top.
Towns scored 26 goals last season with 10 assists- not to mention the game-winning goal in overtime to win the 2019 state championship.
After a breakout sophomore season, Paul expects Towns to be even more dominant this year.
“He’s just bigger and better. To be honest with you he’s worked his tail off in the off season and you know he’s got some personal goals he’s shooting for. Having him up there with Jonas and Kaelen feeding him, I think we’ll have a nice three headed monster coming forward,” Paul said.
Towns will have a new scoring partner at forward with him this season, likely to be sophomore Nate Flower who started as an outside mid for the Polar Bears last season.
While Towns and Flower played together last season, they’ll have to learn to gel together as forwards. Towns said he is confident in making adjustments.
“We could have a different play style. I think it’ll be easy to adjust to because Billy last year he kind of played underneath me and this year I’m kind of playing underneath someone else. I know what to do to make that adjustment so I think it’ll be pretty easy to adjust,” Towns said.
As for the defense and midfield, the first-team All-State power duo, the Branch brothers are returning for their senior season.
Jonas Branch dominated the midfield at center mid, led the team with 15 assists in 2019 and also put 18 in the back of the net.
While he will see newer faces as his outside mids come fall, he is ready to step up yet again and lead the Polar Bear midfield.
“Well we’ll just see how they play out in these practices just to see how they play in this position, that position. As the days go on we’ll kind of have them in their spots nearing the start of the season or even if it takes time, middle of the season, just for them to find their place on the team,” Jonas Branch said.
Isaac Branch, not shy to get offensive from the back line, scored seven goals last season in addition to five assists.
Paul stated that Isaac will be the heart and soul of his Polar Bear defense.
“I’ve been back there almost three years now and I know the defense pretty well. We lose Seth I understand that, it’s rough and we lose Angelo in the back but we have Eli and Cale to replace those two really big positions and I’m not going to see a drop out of our defense at all. I think it’s going to be exactly the same and maybe even better,” Isaac Branch said.
A long road to Beckley is ahead of the Polar Bears, but they’re ready.
Fairmont Senior is set to see Frankfort in the first game of the season on Sept. 2 at East-West Stadium.