Lakeside Boys Soccer: Ben Smith...Trying to win as a Player and a Coach
The novelist Thomas Wolfe once wrote that you can’t go home again. Well, one Georgia soccer coach is proving that you can. Ben Smith helped lead Lakeside-Dekalb High School to a state soccer championship in 1997. Now, 19 years later, after four years as the junior varsity coach, he is in his fourth season as head coach of the Vikings and has them in a position to challenge for the school’s 7th state championship in boys soccer. This year’s Vikings are a picture perfect 10-0, and ranked number one in Class AAAAAA. The team is led by two senior captains, Max Wieder and Bradley Gavrielides along with a pair of sophomore twins, Saul and Raul Tinoco. Winger Jorge Deleon has played very well this season and goal keeper Alphonso Baptiste has been tough as nails between the pipes. “We mesh a lot of different styles”, says Coach Smith. “We are playing well, we move the ball, we play well together, and while these guys have not played together a long time, they seem to know where each other will be and move the ball accordingly” When Coach Smith is not stressing soccer fundamentals to his Vikings, he is the principal at the Atlanta Area School for the Deaf Elementary School. “ My brother is deaf, and went to the school and later played soccer at Clarkston High School. I learned American sign language early on and that’s how we communicated”. As for this years undefeated Vikings he has set the goal very high. “I think this team is one of the more talented teams in the state and if we keep working hard and playing together, the goal of a state championship is definitely a possibility “ And how about coaching your alma mater to a state title. “ That is the dream. Sure we play one game at a time, but we set our goals high at the beginning of the year, we talk about it, and it has always been our goal to win a state championship” The GHSA kicked off their state soccer tournament in 1966, and since that time, the Lakeside Vikings have won titles in 1970, 1974, 1975, 1981, 1997, and 2008. Coach Smith has noticed a trend. “It seems we have won at least one state title in each decade since the 1970’s, maybe this is our year for this decade” Could be. Right now the Vikings are undefeated, top ranked, and playing at the top of their game. The Vikings have four region games left before spring break, then four non-region games and then it will be on to the playoffs. And for Coach Smith it’s a chance for that rare player-coach daily double of state championships. And if so, you can rest assured that the Lakeside High School community will be fired up about that accomplishment. The coach is back on the home pitch.