Gobblers Credit Farm System
BROADWAY — In 2008, Randy Black started the Broadway Soccer Club, a travel-soccer organization founded to develop talent for Broadway High School. The upstart program stood out among the better-funded travel teams in, notably, Northern Virginia — and not just because few opponents had heard of Broadway, Va.
“They come here,” Allison Botkin, a BSC player and junior outside midfielder on the BHS girls’ soccer team, said of the Northern Virginia travel teams. “And they say what’s that smell?”
Five years later, Broadway is known for more than its agrarian fragrance.
BSC’s various age-group teams have won multiple titles in the Old Dominion Soccer League, and as a result, the high school’s girls’ team is having what is agreed to be the best season in program history.
“We are a really good team. We work well together,” junior center midfielder Jess Bergan said. “We’re all very strong athletes. We understand how each other play. Overall, we’re just a very cohesive, good group.”
The Gobblers are 12-1 overall, 8-1 in the Valley District, and in position to take the league regular-season title if they win their final three games, the last of which is Monday at Harrisonburg, which handed BHS its lone loss, 1-0, on April 13.
Meanwhile, Harrisonburg went 1-0-1 against Spotswood, which BHS swept this season, winning both games 2-1.
Broadway has outscored opponents 46-10 in 13 games this year, with five shutouts. The Gobblers are averaging better than three goals a game, led by Bergan who has 11. Freshman forward Shaylla Oswald has nine, and Botkin and junior forward Brianna Zook have five each. Of the 18 players on the team, 13 have scored.
BHS’s 12 wins are believed to be the most program history, said Black, the Gobblers’ first-year coach. But Broadway’s dominance isn’t a surprise to him.
“I thought this would be a real strong year for us,” Black said.
Why? The Broadway Soccer Club.
Black said 16 of BHS’s 18 players have played for BSC, and that the travel team allowed the players to develop as a team as much as it helped them develop their individual skills. Now, the Broadway farm system is translating into wins at the varsity level.
It costs no more than $200 per season to play for the Broadway Soccer Club.
“It’s a very important thing,” said Black, a landscaper at Valley Lawn Service who graduated from Radford in 1988 with a business-management degree. “It’s kind of like AAU basketball in that it gives kids offseason training and real high-quality games. Going to Northern Virginia, we wanted to play against the best competition we could play against in the offseason, so when we came to our high school season, we’d be prepared — we’d be a team already.”
Players said that cohesion is the major factor for the Gobblers’ winning.
“We’ve come a long way, and it did start in travel soccer, and it built up, and it happened in the offseason” Botkin said. “It happened through all the hours of practice, and I think, eventually, we learned how to play well with each other and knew how to work with each other.”
Black, whose daughter Bailey is a sophomore defender for BHS, said the BSC teams play a style of soccer similar to BHS, so those players are ready when they get to high school. The 47-year-old Broadway alum — he graduated in 1983 — also said he intends to make BSC’s style resemble BHS’s even more, now that he’s the Gobblers’ head coach.
Currently, the Gobblers play a 4-4-2 with a flat-back defense that pushes up its outside backs to get them involved with the offense. It’s a balanced style that pairs a hard attack with a stiff defense. That defense has allowed more than one goal in a game just once this season. That was in BHS’s season-opening 4-3 win at James Wood.
“We do have a strong defense,” said Oswald, a speedy scorer capable out-running defenders and netting goals with either foot. “We do score a lot. It’s just a mixture between the two.”
The players had a feeling 2013 would be a good season, too. A year into its existence, BSC won its first title in the spring of 2009. It has progressed since then. Oswald’s group, currently the under-16 team, has won multiple championships. Those players, many of whom played up an age level, are now in high school.
“Other years, nobody’s really known how to play with each other and play off each other’s strengths,” said forward Morgan Phillips, the Gobblers’ lone senior. “But since we’ve been together forever, we know who’s good at what and who can do what.”
The plan is for BSC to feed BHS for years, with both teams improving as a result. Maybe, eventually, opponents will even get used to the smell.
“Those teams were definitely good,” Botkin said. “And it just kind of showed that a little country team from Broadway could go up and win and prove that we work just as hard as they do.”