CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- To be among the best in the Kanawha Valley a soccer team has to be one of the best in the state.
State champions from Kanawha and Putnam counties have become commonplace. Although St. Albans does not belong to the club of local teams that own boys state titles - Nitro (1990), Capital (1992, 1998, 1993), George Washington (2007, 2011), Charleston Catholic (2009-2012) and Hurricane (2012) - the Red Dragons have quietly made their way into the top 15 in the West Virginia High School Soccer Coaches Association rankings.
The Red Dragons (4-2-1) have wins against Riverside, Capital, Lincoln County and Teays Valley Christian. St. Albans' two losses were an 8-4 offensive slugfest with Parkersburg and a 4-1 defeat at Woodrow Wilson (the tie was against Ripley).
Senior Jack Wiles has played a big part in the Red Dragons' early-season success, already surpassing his 2012 team-leading total of 12 goals with 16 so far this season.
"It's an advantage to have a player like Jack Wiles on your team," St. Albans Coach Cameron Ashley said. "He's goal hungry and loves to score but isn't afraid to pass the ball off. He has a lot of speed, ball control and is very smart when he plays. He's an aggressive, good player."
The Red Dragons lean heavily on senior leadership. Wiles is joined by fellow 12th graders David Atwood, Nate Beck, Derrick Bumgardner, Ben Gregg and Sam Heywood on the St. Albans roster. Add junior goalkeepers Brian Knight and St. Albans has a core group of players to help build a winning mentality with the younger members of the roster.
"They help the younger guys," Ashley said.
"A lot of chemistry from last year is being built upon and that's a big factor for us. We also had a lot of midfielders return which really helps."
The Red Dragons will be tested in the back half of the season with games remaining against GW, South Charleston, Hurricane, Winfield, Huntington and Cabell Midland before the end of the regular season in early October.
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GEORGE WASHINGTON entered its game against Hurricane on Tuesday with a 7-0-0 record. Making that start even more impressive is the fact that GW has not allowed a goal this season. Defenders Connor Boyd, Mark Dundervill, Bailey Johnson and Khegan McClane have been a wall in the back for Coach Tom Hopper.
"It takes a lot of pressure off," he said. "We know that at any point in time somebody can soccer, but they certainly make life a lot easier for us."