WHEELING - With the additions of Fairmont Senior, East Fairmont and North Marion to Class AA/A Region One, things are going to be a little bit tricker for Weir if it is to make a fifth straight trip for the state tournament.
The Red Riders and veteran coach Joe Pepe are determined to make sure the road to Beckley still has to come through them.
Weir got the season off to a good start with a 5-0 victory against sectional rival Wheeling Central in a mutual season-opener Tuesday at Field 4 at Wheeling Park.
Weir’s Alex Hannah (16) pushes the ball upfield as Wheeling Central’s Mason Huffman (7) gives chase during action of their match Tuesday.
''First game we looked a little sloppy, the kids were anxious, but we moved the ball well and I can't complain,'' said Pepe, entering his 20th season coaching Weir. ''We still have some things to work on but first game, starting out 1-0 with a 5-0 victory, we'll take it.''
Shane Davis recorded a hat trick for the Red Riders, while Kenny Muhart added the other two, including the backbreaker at the end of the half.
Wheeling Central, playing with five first-time players and a first-year coach, hung in tough with the Red Riders for most of the first half.
Davis put Weir up 1-0 in the 16th minute as Wheeling Central tried to weather the storms - the rain and the Red Riders attack - before the halftime whistle.
Instead, freshman Ryan Kirk sent a cross through the front of the net that Wheeling Central goalie Bryce Ghaphery came out to make a play on. The wet ball slipped through Ghaphery's hands and right to the foot of Muhart who put the ball home just before the first half came to a close.
''Any time you give away a goal toward the end of a half, it's a momentum breaker,'' Wheeling Central coach Brian Roth said. ''The guys came off the field a little disheartened, a little deflated from that sudden impact. Then you go back in and try to get it back but the other team scores first and it snowballed from there.''
Weir wasted little time, scoring 6 minutes into the second half and three times in an 8-minute span to put the game away.
After a Wheeling Central foul, Kirk caught the Maroon Knights defense napping with a quick restart. His through ball found Muhart 1-on-1 with Ghaphery and the Red Riders junior easily scored for a 3-0 lead.
Less than 4 minutes later, Davis added his second when, again, Ghaphery couldn't handle the slippery ball, this time the shot going behind him and across the goal line.
Davis finished the hat trick and the scoring with a breakaway goal 3 minutes later.
''When we have an opportunity, we saw some things and we wanted to attack,'' Pepe said. ''I'm looking for Shane and Kenny to step up, along with my midfield. Defense is going to be solid and they played real well (Tuesday). We know Shane is going to step up with some big goals, as will as Kenny. They will do well.''
Matt Tenaglio and Michael Ceralo combined for the shutout with Tenaglio making four saves. Ghaphery stopped five shots for the Maroon Knights.
''Weir definitely has a good program and we at Central are trying to build a program,'' Roth said. ''That kind of showed but we are looking for a good season. They showed some teamwork and we had a couple good quality chances on goal. We have a new goalie and he made a couple really good saves and stayed with it even though it started going against him.''