Soccer champs shoot for the top at Mid-Atlantic Elks Invitational Soccer Shoot
Asha Thomas fires into the net Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Elks Invitational Soccer Shoot in South Hagerstown High School gymnasium. The 11-year-old came from Abingdon in Harford Co. Maryland. (By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer / March 9, 2013)
A local Elks Lodge was hosting a soccer shoot. When Rhys — pronounced “Reese” — found out it was an open competition, he asked his father for permission to give it a try.
Rhys, 12, of Falling Waters, W.Va., walked away from the Martinsburg field that day feeling confident that he had done well. A couple weeks later, his father, Archer Crebbs, received a call confirming that.
“He competed really well,” Crebbs said.
So well, in fact, that Rhys was invited to compete in November in the West Virginia state championships in Parkersburg, where he walked out with top honors in the boys’ under 12, known as the U12, division.
Rhys and 46 other state champions tested their shooting skills against one another Saturday at the Mid-Atlantic Elks Invitational Soccer Shoot at South Hagerstown High School.
Large grid goals spilt into point sections ranging from one to five spread across the gymnasium. Gerald Morrow of Hagerstown Elks Lodge 378, logistical coordinator for the shoot, said the five-point area was up high, where it would be most difficult for a goalie to intercept. Shooters approached the grid as they would a penalty kick.
“Different age groups shoot different distances,” Morrow said. “The idea is to put the ball in the location where you get the highest points total.”
Rhys said he prepared for the competition by shooting against a goal and paying special attention to aim for the fives area. But his strategy Saturday was a little different.
“I went for fours. If you go for fives, you are more likely ... to miss,” he said. “So you go for fours and tip it up.”
One shooter tipped a little too high, swishing the soccer ball through a basketball hoop beyond the grid. The crowd of about 250 people broke into cheers and applause.
West Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Kentucky and Ohio each sent a male and a female representative in the U14, U12, U10 and U8 categories. Maryland, Delaware and Washington, D.C., combined for representation as one state, Morrow said.
Morrow said the event opened Friday night with a pizza party and swimming at the hotel where competitors were staying. Following the tournament Saturday, families had lunch at the Elks and free time before heading back to the lodge for an evening awards banquet.
Lodges provide the tournament free of charge to competitors and families, Morrow said, covering the cost of meals and uniforms and, in some cases, even gas and lodging.
Crebbs said he was “excited and pleased” to have his son involved with the competition.
“The Elks made us feel so welcome. It’s really fun,” he said. “It’s not about who wins or loses. We know they are all champions.”
Sarah Blair, 14, daughter of Tim and Alison Blair of Greencastle, Pa., broke her district record and became state champion at her November contest in State College, Pa., by scoring 48 points in 15 shots. The midfielder and goalie prepared for Saturday’s shoot by hitting a ball off of a wall.
“My dad usually gives me little areas where I have to kick off of, and he gives me spots where I have to aim for,” she said.
Sarah said she thought she shot “OK” Saturday, but not as well as she did at states. She enjoyed competing at each level and meeting new people, she said.
Tim Blair said the Elks’ comprehensive provision for competitors and families was remarkable.
“(The Elks) provides trophies, outfits, T-shirts, gas cards, hotels, they feed us,” he said.
Alison Blair said the event helps “boost kids’ confidence and gives them a goal.”
“It’s a real model for the community,” she said.