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It’s all about soccer, fun and good times for these guys
There’s a small Civil War under way on Whidbey Island between the North and the South.
But it’s all in fun, as soccer coach Joel Gerlach explained.
“The over-40 men’s soccer team is a chance to get great exercise, hang out with other guys, be competitive and maintain our soccer skills,” he said.
Those skills were much in evidence as the South’s FC Whidbey beat the North team 2-0 in the sixth Island Classic match at Oak Harbor’s Memorial Stadium on Dec. 4.
The North dominated the first 15 minutes until Don Gorski, assisted by Tom Bartlett, scored.
“We had the ball and played it wide down field,” Gerlach recalled. “Tom drilled it and laid an unselfish kick across the net and Don finished it off.”
Minutes later, Gorski accepted a pass from the middle, broke away from the defender and scored after a one-on-one with the goalie.
Gerlach said spirited defense by Vaughn Vandelac, Robert Marsanyi, Steve Poirier and Glenn Jones kept the pressure on for a full 90 minutes, preserving the win.
“We have a friendly rivalry with our friends to the north and we take it seriously. Serious fun,” Gerlach added.
The match also served as a means to build confidence in the local young adult referees officiating the match under the watchful eyes of the adult referees, said organizer Frank Basaca.
“All were witness to the South, utilizing their team cohesiveness and experience outscoring Oak Harbor 2-0 for their second consecutive win in this series,” Basaca said. “Previous encounters resulted in only one win for Oak Harbor, and two ties.”
He said there were doctors, accountants, correctional custody officers, naval aviators from the Navy base and a number of once and current soccer coaches represented on the field.
“The Island Classic drew a sizable crowd, with the fans consisting of family members willing to endure the chilly night, and numerous youths, anxious to see if ‘Coach’ really practices what he preaches.”
The players repaired to a local pub for burgers and beer, then watched a replay of their heroics on television.
“Goals were praised, calls were argued, styles were commented on, bloopers immortalized and the many close scoring opportunities by the North were lamented,” Basaca added.
The 15 members of FC Whidbey belong to the Snohomish County Adult Soccer Association, an adult soccer league in Washington state, providing league play for all levels of competition year round.
The men play 45 games a year over four seasons, sometimes spending up to four hours getting to, playing and returning from games.
The soccer organization offers coed leagues as well, provided there are no more than five men on the field during a game, excluding the goalkeeper.
Gerlach, the South Whidbey High School varsity boys soccer coach, took over as manager in 1998, but the team itself has been around for 20 years.
“Games on the mainland sometimes don’t start until 9 p.m., so you have to be a dedicated player to keep going,” he said.
Fellow high school coach Paul Arand — he leads the varsity girls team at South Whidbey High — plays center midfield.
“For me, it’s about the camaraderie, the chance to meet people, stay in shape and maintain my soccer skills,” he said. “And have fun.”
Arand agreed there can be a serious investment in time, up to four hours when ferry travel is factored in.
“You have to really love the game, and I guess most of us do,” he said.
The team can be found conducting pick-up games at 1:30 p.m. on any given Saturday at the Sports Complex on Langley Road.
“The people at Parks & Rec do a great job supporting soccer on South Whidbey,” Gerlach said. “They’ve just upgraded all the fields and they are in terrific shape.”
Mark Helpenstell was one of the original founders of the club, and was the Falcon boys soccer coach for 13 years before Gerlach took the helm. There was no soccer program for him in Idaho growing up, and it wasn’t until he was in college that he learned the fundamentals and the soccer bug bit him.
“Why do it? ‘Cause we’re all a little crazy,” he said with a laugh. “All of us have a love of the game and a desire to stay healthy. Some of us now qualify for the over-50 team, so it must be working.”
Anyone interested in playing can contact Gerlach at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For details on the Snohomish County Adult Soccer Association, visit