Wins and losses are not everything when it comes to early-September soccer games, most coaches would rather use the early-season games to learn about their team.
Of course, it is even better to learn about your team while also posting favorable results. So far it has been a win-win situation for the Knoch High School boys soccer team.
Officially, the Knights are 3-1-2 but really they have five wins counting shootouts.
Opening the season in the Shaler Tournament, Knoch played Plum and Penn-Trafford to 1-1 ties. Tournament games go to penalty kicks to break the tie although the official result is recorded as a tie. Knoch won both penalty-kick shootouts. It was a great way to start the season for Knoch, after losing to Shaler and Penn-Trafford in the tournament to start the 2012 season.
Despite the slow start, the 2012 campaign still yielded a WPIAL playoff berth and a postseason win. Eight starters are back from that team, including the dynamic scoring combination of senior Brandon Vargo and junior Ben Andrews.
Vargo starts as a forward while Andrews is an attacking midfielder in the Knoch 4-4-2 formation. Vargo had scored four goals through the Knights' first five games.
"Brandon is just a goal scorer," Knoch coach Malcolm Cook said. "He likes to dribble and take people on. Ben can score goals from anywhere, long distance, from short, on a corner.
After the Shaler Tournament, Knoch opened Class AA Section 2 play with a pair of shutout wins against Kittanning, 5-0 and Freeport, 1-0. Knoch also blanked Hopewell, 2-0. Last season the Knights fell 3-1 to the Vikings.
Knoch lost a tight 3-2 decision at home against Slippery Rock on Tuesday in a non-section game.
"We have a lot of experience back and enthusiasm from some of the younger players," Cook said. "We started off really well and it gave me a chance to get the junior varsity players some playing time and give them a chance. I think the tougher games are still to come."
Knoch should have decent depth, Cook anticipates going four or five deep to his bench.
Knoch plays host to Deer Lakes tonight and section action picks up next week when they play Highlands, Shady Side Academy and Mars Area on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Mars won the section title last season with a 10-1-1 record ahead of Knoch (8-3-1). Highlands just missed the playoffs with a 6-6 record and Shady Side Academy is a new addition to the section from Class AA Section 3. The Indians won nine section games last season and reached the postseason.
"I think it should play out the same it has the last few years," Cook said. "It should be us, Mars and Shady Side, it is the three of us normally, but who knows. I have not seen Deer Lakes or Highlands play."
Defense was a strength last season for Knoch and it should be again this year. The Knights had seven shutouts a year ago, including a 1-0 shutout win against Beaver Area in the WPIAL Class AA preliminary round.
Knoch only conceded two goals through its first five games and senior goalkeeper Brett Miner came up big in the Shaler Tournament by making stops in the penalty kick shootouts. Miner was named tournament MVP. This is Miner's year to shine after being the backup keeper the last three seasons.
"He is playing very, very well," Cook said.
The defense is anchored by senior Lucas Kunkel and junior Devin Sherman.
"Those two are very strong," Cook said.