Men's Soccer: Potomac State Signs a Gold Mine of Talent at Mountain Ridge
Front row left – right: Students Jordan Cook, Connor Eberly, Chris Ranker, Brandon Cutter, and Mountain Ridge Coach Tim Nightengale
Keyser, WV- Potomac State Head Men's Soccer Coach Ray Kiddy knows that to find talent that translates into wins in the fall means traveling far and wide to find the best players. This time he only had to travel just up the road to Frostburg, Md. to scoop up a handful of very successful local talent.
Kiddy inked four student-athletes from Mountain Ridge High School that he hopes will make Potomac State solid again this fall. Mountain Ridge and their Head Coach Tim Nightengale have won 10 straight area titles and won back to back Maryland 1A State Soccer Championships. The Miners went 18-1 overall and beat Manchester Valley 4-1 on penalty kicks for the Class 1A state title. They also won the Appalachian Mountain Athletic Conference with an 8-0 record.
That winning attitude is something that Kiddy hopes will permeate throughout the Catamount booters.
Headlining the signees is Chris Ranker who was named as one of the co-winners of the Edward C. “Ebbie” Finzel Boys Soccer Player of the Year award by area head coaches.
This past year, Ranker scored 26 goals and had one assist for 53 points and a 2.78 per game average, which was fourth-best in the area. Also first-team All-AMAC, he won the conference scoring crown with 14 goals, an assist and 29 points in only eight games for a 3.62 mark.
“Chris has been an incredible player for us for three years,’’ said Nightengale. “Every year he worked on improving and every year he did just that. He is a great soccer player with an outstanding work ethic and a passion for the game that drives him to be successful.”
A team captain, Ranker was a leader on and off the field. He has a 3.47 grade-point average. “Chris has set the bar high for future forwards in our program. He is a great person who has many opportunities ahead of him,’’ said Nightengale.
Joining the class from MRHS is Connor Eberly, whose record-setting career as a goalkeeper ended with a state-championship clinching penalty kick.
For his achievements he was named the winner of the Dave Searles Memorial Goalkeeper of the Year Award by the area’s high school boys soccer head coaches.
Eberly’s three-year career as a starter for the Miners can be defined many ways, but the most telling is simply the team’s success. Over Eberly’s three-year span in goal, the Miners went 49-5-2 with three area and region championships and a pair of Class 1A state titles.
After shutting out Brunswick 1-0 in the state final of 2010, the Miners faced Manchester Valley in this year’s final and Eberly and the defense posted another shutout. But so did Manchester Valley, as the game was 0-0 through two overtime periods.
Defensively, he faced Manchester Valley’s penalty kicks and allowed only one to sneak by. Selected to take Mountain Ridge’s fourth penalty kick — with the Miners up 3-1 — he drilled his kick into the net, sealing the Miners’ second straight title and beginning a wild celebration on the field.
“Connor is a natural forward who we moved into goal as a sophomore. He always itched to get that opportunity to play the field and score,’’ said Nightengale. “Connor was one of our top players, and that led to him taking the fourth kick in the state game and making it to clinch the state championship. It was a fitting way for him to be able to reap the benefit for making the sacrifice for the good of the team.”
He leaves Mountain Ridge as the school record-holder for shutouts in a season (11 1/2), career shutouts (32), career save percentage (.891), single-season saves (102) and even fewest saves (56).
This year, he made 56 saves and allowed only seven goals in 19 games for an .888 percentage and a 0.36 goals against average. He had 11 1/2 shutouts, including six in a row at one point.
“Having a player with Connor’s athleticism in goal for three seasons is a big reason we were so successful. He worked hard and was a leader and his personality made him fun to coach.”
Eberly, a team captain and National Honor Society leaves MRHS with a 3.71 grade-point average.
Rounding out the Miner connection coming to Potomac State are a pair of defenders, Jordan Cook and Brandon Cutter.
Mountain Ridge scored 69 goals this year. But the Miners gave up just seven, and only three in their last 14 games. The defense, anchored by Cook had 12 shutouts during their memorable state championship run.
Cutter comes into PSC as a transfer from Frostburg State University and was the defensive stopper for MRHS's 2010 State Championship team.
“They stopped some real good teams that scored a lot of goals,’’ said Nightengale. Manchester Valley set school records with 45 goals during the season and 13 in a game. “It seemed like every time they got an attack we won the ball and cleared it up field. Our defenders were solid.”
Potomac State finished last season with a record of 10-5-1.