Bulldogs aim to continue ascent

Published 10:28pm Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The King’s Fork High School boys’ soccer team produced a strong 2013 season but has since experienced a mass exodus, due largely to graduation.

Last year’s squad featured a complete starting lineup of seniors and Todd Gidley as head coach.

Now, Michel Bilé enters as head coach. He said he expressed interest in the coaching position after it became vacant once the King’s Fork principal wanted Gidley to focus on some other duties.

Bilé, who grew up playing soccer first in Ivory Coast and then Ghana, has experience coaching advanced, select and recreational teams within the Suffolk Youth Athletic Association.

He is now president of the SYAA, but his desire to see soccer programs in Suffolk advance is not limited to that organization.

“We need to try to help our local schools,” he said.

As far as the Bulldogs are concerned, Bilé acknowledges all the graduation-induced departures, but said, “This year, you see a very good mix,” adding the 2014 squad is “a very young team with a lot of talent.”

Nine of the 18 players on the roster are underclassmen, only four players are seniors and the starting lineup has at least one representative from all four classes.

Bilé predicts success for the Bulldogs on the field this year.

“I believe that we’ll perform, with a little guidance, at the same level as last year or better,” he said.

King's Fork High School senior center midfielder Oludare Olugbemi will be one of his team's primary leaders this season. (Caroline LaMagna photo)
King’s Fork High School senior center midfielder Oludare Olugbemi will be one of his team’s primary leaders this season. (Caroline LaMagna photo)

In 2013, King’s Fork came very close to making the Southeastern District tournament for the first time ever. It went 5-9 overall and 3-7 in the district, including a tiebreaker game against Nansemond River High School to see who would qualify for the tourney. The Warriors ultimately won, but the Bulldogs had succeeded in setting a new tone at King’s Fork.

For 2014, important contributors to that team return, joined by new prospects. Because of weather delays and cancellations of pre-season events, Bilé said, “I’m really still trying to pinpoint the key people.”

He knew of some, however, including senior center midfielder and team captain Oludare Olugbemi.

“I think he has good distribution, understanding of the game,” Bilé said. “He’s my anchor in the midfield, almost like a quarterback.”

The coach said it is difficult to come by a center midfielder with a good understanding of the game, someone who can read plays and know when to attack and when to distribute.

Bilé highlighted junior Jeremy Woods as an excellent goalkeeper.

“He’s following the game throughout, he’s quick on his feet in terms of grabbing the ball,” Bilé said.

The coach cited several up-and-comers on the team, including freshmen forward/midfielders Sterling McGee and Garrett Fuller and two sophomores, midfielder/defender Luke Nother and forward/defender/goalkeeper Drequan Wilson.

Bilé described junior Hugh Long, a swimming standout, as a master defender.

“He has the height, he has the speed,” the coach said.

Bilé said he will be counting on every one of his players to score because his style of play is a bit different.

“I expect even my defenders, especially those on the wings, to be part of the attack,” he said.

He will play his team in a 4-4-2 formation, with four defenders, four midfielders and two forwards, but “When we’re attacking, it changes to four up front, four in the middle, two in the back.”

This style could help his players to overcome what Bilé foresees as their biggest challenge.

“I think the biggest challenge is understanding it’s a team sport,” he said. “You cannot get the ball in the net all by yourself. It takes all 11 players to get the ball in the net.”

King’s Fork begins the season today at home against Nandua High School.

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