Harrison starting strong in new role for Pats

By Brad Fauber

STEPHENS CITY — Peter Harrison had thrived as an outside forward for the last three years on Shenandoah Valley Christian Academy’s boys soccer team. This fall, as a senior, he’s had to get accustomed to a new position.

Patriots head coach Dustin Wheelock decided to move Harrison into the middle of SVCA’s attacking front this season to give the senior more control on the field. Harrison, who possesses a good balance of scoring and attacking capabilities, has quickly settled comfortably into his new role this season. Not that it’s any surprise to Wheelock.

“He’s a player that I could put him anywhere on the field and he could be tremendous,” Wheelock said following SVCA’s win over Mountain View Christian Academy on Tuesday. “He pays attention to detail. He executes the small details for everything. For three years he’s played on the outside like an outside forward and he’s been tremendous. … He’s been outside because he’s been a huge weapon for us, so I’ve reluctantly pulled him into the middle. But he’s great in the middle. He creates a lot of problems against teams. He’s got a rocket for a shot from both feet.”

Wheelock expected Harrison to assume a leadership role this fall after he helped lead the Patriots to a National Association of Christian Athletes (NACA) Division II championship in 2013, and Harrison has so far not disappointed.

Harrison has scored at least one goal in each of SVCA’s first four matches this fall. In two games last week, Harrison, The Northern Virginia Daily’s Male Athlete of the Week for Aug. 31-Sept. 6, tallied two goals and an assist as SVCA tied a tough Shenandoah Valley Academy squad and rallied to beat Seton School.

“Peter was, in both of those games, really big on attack for us, even more than the stats show,” Wheelock said. “There were several times where he was bringing the ball out of the air and had three players around him and would beat those three players or play the pass around to somebody else.”

Harrison, who scored 14 goals and had 16 assists last season for the Patriots, was instrumental to SVCA’s success last week. Last Thursday against SVA, Harrison broke a scoreless tie with a goal in the 59th minute.

On the play, Harrison got loose behind the defense as teammate Morgan Beaty sent a free kick his way, and Harrison gathered the ball out of the air and planted the ball into the right side of the net.

SVCA extended that lead to 2-0 about 11 minutes later, but the Patriots squandered the lead as SVA struck for two goals in a four-minute span to force overtime. The game ended in a 2-2 draw.

“We would’ve liked to win,” Harrison said. “They scored those two goals right at the end. I felt like we possessed a little better than they did, but in the end they really worked hard through the entire game and maybe out-worked us a little bit at the end there.”

Harrison and the Patriots turned right back around the next night to rally for a 5-4 win over Seton School. SVCA fell behind 2-0 quickly in the first half before answering with a pair of goals, including Harrison’s goal in the 24th minute to tie the match at 2-2.

The senior had initially gotten loose on a breakaway, but was dragged down just outside the penalty box. Harrison responded with what Wheelock called a “rifle” shot on a free kick into the upper-right corner of the net.

Harrison helped SVCA (3-0-1) again answer two quick goals by Seton School in the second half, as he found teammate Josh Smallwood on a through pass for a one-on-one opportunity against the Seton goalkeeper. Smallwood converted the goal, one of three that the Patriots scored in the second half to escape with the 5-4 win.

“We put [Smallwood] up there at forward. I don’t think we’d had him up there before and he was just doing a really good job of timing his runs right and I just played it through to him,” Harrison said of the scoring play.

Harrison said he enjoys spreading the ball around as opposed to trying to beat defenders with a dribble, a tactic that fits perfectly with Wheelock’s offensive game plan.

Wheelock said Harrison is also an excellent defender for the Patriots despite typically playing at the front of SVCA’s offensive attack.

“I would say the one thing that he does better than anybody I’ve coached is he, when the ball is turned over, he puts pressure on them like that,” Wheelock said. “His defensive skill is so big for us. He’s stolen it from the defensive players from their team and instantly gone into goal several times already this year.”

Contact staff writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or bfauber@nvdaily.com