The fall of 2019 will mark a new beginning for the Somerset High School boys soccer team, and a new start for former Briar Jumper coach Brian Blankenship.
After coaching the Somerset boys soccer team for five seasons from 2007 to 20011, Brian Blankenship is ready to return as the Briar Jumpers' new boys soccer coach.
"When I left coaching in 2011, I knew I'd be transitioning to another part of life - so that's how I got out of it," Blankenship explained. "Getting back into it I didn't really foresee myself as coaching again, but now that the opportunity was given to me I jumped on it and seized it."
"My son plays on the team, so I really thought this would be something that I can share with him," Blankenship added. "I know the students, and I have been an educator for 18 years. So, I was very excited about the opportunity."
Blankenship left the Somerset head coaching position to spend more time watching his sons play the sport of soccer, as their father. But during that time, Blankenship has always been around the Somerset soccer program in one form or another.
"I had two sons come through the program, so I was always around the Somerset soccer program," Blankenship stated. "I wanted to just watch and be a father, instead of having to be a father/coach. That was one of the main reasons I quit coaching at the time, I really enjoyed that, and it was the right decision at that time."
"I have been an announcer for the games, a scoreboard operator, I have been the field marshal, and the conduit to the referees," Blankenship explained. "I've done all that and I have thoroughly enjoyed it."
Blankenship also knew that his return to coaching at Somerset would help facilitate a smooth transition in the changing of Briar Jumper boys soccer coaches.
"I just figured it's time for me to get back into it a little more and I really wanted it to be a smooth transition for these players," Blankenship stated. "The players were very worried about who the next coach was going to be. Most of them already knew me, and they knew I'd coach previously. I think this will make for a pretty smooth transition."
Blankenship will not be the only new face on the Somerset boys soccer team this year. After graduating 13 seniors for last year's team, Blankenship will coach a group of new, and somewhat inexperienced, Briar Jumper varsity soccer players.
"We graduated 13 seniors (from last year's team) and there were times, on the field, where they were nothing but seniors," Blankenship explained. "A lot of these kids do not have very much experience. We're returning only 18 percent of our goal production, and 15% of our assist production, and our goalkeeper graduated. It made it kind of interesting for me. I don't know what is going to come out of this. We have some skill players, but that's just not a lot of experience. I think a combination of all that led me to think this was the right time to come back."
And besides the new faces on the field and on the sidelines, the historic Clara Morrow Field will get a new facelift as well. A new boys and girls locker room has been located directly behind the eastern goal. A new stadium entrance has been built, which will house a concession stand, a press box, and other facilities. New state-of-the-art LED lights have been erected and artificial turf will be laid inside the two goal penalty box areas. And a new scoreboard will be placed at midfield opposite the bleachers.
"We have new facilities that are going to be in a state-of-the-art," Blankenship explained. "The new concession stand is unbelievable, which we really didn't even have one previously. These new facilities show a commitment from our school board, and from our superintendent, to put money back into the soccer program. We have brand new boys and girls locker rooms, and there will be projectors where be able to watch game film."
For over 20 years, only two coaches have been on the sidelines for the Somerset High School boys soccer program. Blankenship and his predecessor, Steve Wallace, have guided the Briar Jumpers to great success over the past three decades.
Wallace, who collected his 200th career win last season, began his boys soccer coaching stint at Somerset High School in 1996, and was relieved of his coaching duties in 2006 resulting from an incident with a player while coaching a middle school game.
Blankenship took over as the new Somerset boys soccer coach in 2007, and guided the Briar Jumpers for five seasons. During that time, Blankenship accumulated a 63-31-7 record, two District 30 titles and a Region 15 runner-up title. Blankenship had winning records in all five of his seasons, with his best year coming in 2009 with a 14-5-2 mark.
With a new school administration in place, Blankenship was allowed to bring Wallace back onto his coaching staff. Blankenship gave the program back to Wallace after the 2011 season, but Wallace left the program for the final time after the 2018 season.
And now, Brian Blankenship is back to begin a New Era for the Somerset High Scholl boys soccer team at the new Clara Morrow Field.
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.