Boys soccer blog: Hapeville Charter’s fast start in debut season has community excited about the beautiful game
Hapeville Charter’s boys soccer program is in its infancy, yet it already is making waves throughout the community, the student body and the coaching staff that oversees the athletic operations.
The Hapeville Charter community has adopted soccer much like Atlanta’s involvement with the beautiful game has grown extensively since Atlanta United brought the city along on its ride to the 2018 MLS Cup after bursting onto the scene over two years ago.
“Our players are really excited,” Hapeville head coach Steffon Benson said. “They are confident that we can go all the way to the championship, although they were disappointed that we won’t be able to play in the Benz like the football teams. They do say that they want to win a championship like Atlanta United, and I get new kids coming up every day saying they want to play next year. So it’s getting the ball rolling.”
The program, in its debut season, is undefeated at 7-0 after beating KIPP Atlanta Collegiate 8-2 Thursday. The Hornets opened their season with an 8-3 victory against KIPP and followed with a 7-3 road victory against South Atlanta. The Hornets beat Douglass 4-1 on March 5, then defeated Washington 6-1, Therrell 5-1 and B.E.S.T. 10-0.
“It’s a two-part emotion,” said Benson of his undefeated program. “Of course I am happy we have won all of our games. But as a coach, I always look for somewhere to improve. Every game we make gains, as far as being a team, and every other game I still have to tell them something we have to fix.”
The Hapeville student body always wanted a soccer program, and principal Candace Bethea said that if the school wanted a team, they needed someone to coach and sponsor the program.
In stepped Benson.
“Our principal said that if they found someone to coach and sponsor the team, they could have it,” Benson said. “I had coached at another school, so I thought that I’d do it. I always want to do things to help the students have a more interesting high school year.”
The birth of the new program has been a family affair for the Hapeville athletics department. Many people reached out to help, whether it was equipment or moral support. It has been an all-hands-on-deck mentality for the Hornets.
“Our boys are (unbeaten),” said Keydrick Barlow, the Hapeville boys basketball coach. “Our student body is really excited about this, and we have also drawn more community involvement from more of our diverse population.”
Barlow has been supportive of the fledgling team from the start.
“Coach Barlow has been really good and patient with us,” Benson said. “He has helped us put in requests for equipment, things like balls and ball bags. The other stuff, we got it from other coaches and other areas. The water bottles, the coolers, the cones … everybody is kind of pitching in where they can if I need some things. Soccer isn’t a super-upkeep sport, and if you have balls and uniforms you’re pretty set to go. But it’s our first year and we haven’t played outside of our region yet, so we don’t really know what to expect.”
Senior Alex Barnett has done most of the damage on offense with 15 goals, five assists and 35 points. Junior Steven Tete has added 11 goals, seven assists and 29 points. Sophomore Joshua Donado has scored five goals with four assists for 14 points. Freshman Kanye Blake has tallied three goals, and junior Brandon Barnett has netted one goal with two assists.
“When I first put out the interest meeting, Alex and Steven were the first to come and say they wanted to play and wanted to start practicing,” Benson said. “Of course the GHSA has their rules of when we can officially start practicing, so they were kind of twiddling their thumbs and waiting. But they would come check in with me all the time. Now that they’ve started, Alex and Steven have made sure they support their teammates and make sure the ball is passed around to allow other players a chance to shine.”
The Hornets are in control of the Region 6-AA standings, ahead of Therrell (3-1), South Atlanta (1-1), KIPP (1-2), Douglass (0-2), Washington (0-2) and B.E.S.T. (0-4).
But for now, Hapeville is just going with the flow and enjoying its inaugural season.
“Expectations are good when you have high hopes,” Benson said. “We know nothing about any of the tournament teams. So there will be a bit of uncertainty going into the tournament.”
Boys soccer rankings
3. Mill Creek
7. Mountain View
8. North Gwinnett
9. Collins Hill
10. Colquitt County
3. Cross Keys
5. Starr’s Mill
8. Clarke Central
9. North Springs
3. Northwest Whitfield
5. Oconee County
6. St. Pius X
8. Woodward Academy
10. Druid Hills
2. Greater Atlanta Christian
4. East Hall
6. Pace Academy
8. Pike County
10. North Murray
4. Putnam County
6. Jeff Davis
9. Social Circle
2. Atlanta International
3. St. Anne Pacelli
4. Whitefield Academy
5. Athens Academy
7. Pinecrest Academy
8. Holy Innocents’
9. Providence Christian
10. Georgia Military