Strike up a conversation in T-ball and it just might lead to kicking balls at South Kitsap High School rather than fielding down the hill.
It didn’t take long for Daniel Lathrop to notice Justin Moore could help his SK United soccer team when the two played baseball together as 5-year-olds.
“He was one of the fastest kids on the team,” said Lathrop, the Wolves’ goalkeeper. “I thought he could be really good.”
After he and his parents talked with SK United coach Bruce Mabry, Moore joined the team — and hasn’t left the game since.
The junior captain — the first non-senior selected by South coach Eric Bergeson in his 11-year tenure at the school — has a team-best seven goals at forward as the Wolves entered spring break 5-0-0 in Narrows League play and 7-0-1 overall.
Moore credits stamina for his start. He said that stems from playing for West Sound FC, which advances to regionals in June.
Moore said he also has been buoyed by his team’s success and credited the midfielders for the way they “work the ball up.”
He said it’s a different feeling than last year when the team had to replace several graduated players.
After placing a school-best second place in the 2006 Class 4A state tournament, the Wolves finished with a 7-4-5 record, and failed to advance to state for the first time since 2003.
“I definitely expected to go further,” Moore said. “Not even making it to state is hard.”
He also said there were some disagreements between him and Bergeson last season, but those might have been an extension of similarities between player and coach.
Bergeson and assistant coach Josh Morton tabbed Moore and senior center midfielder Jordan Thomas as co-captains.
“He’s mentally and physically tough, and I like captains who are an extension of myself,” said Bergeson, adding that captains are selected based on a variety of factors, including academics, representation of the program, skill, vocal leadership and work ethic. “We see a lot of things the same way.”
Moore sees a team with talent and leadership on the field. In the school’s gymnasium, he views the Wolves’ state-championship banners for baseball and football and knows what he wants to accomplish.
“That’s a personal goal, to help lead the team to state — if not a state championship,” he said. “I think our program has taken steps over the years. We would like to get on that board with baseball and football.”
Bergeson likes to say that at South, it always starts with the defense. In front of Lathrop are defenders such as Jesse Askew, Bryan Heath and Ryan Muyskens.
They have shut out half their opponents this season, including a pair of 1-0 league wins.
Moore doesn’t want them to face that pressure when the second half of the Narrows season begins at 7:15 p.m. on Tuesday at Stadium.
“We had a lot of ties last year and that’s not acceptable,” he said. “I want them to feel comfortable. They’ve come up with some big shutouts and I’m hoping they can keep it going in the second half.”
When Moore’s not battling defenders on the field, he likes the tranquility of a day on the lake. His prized catch is a 10-pound salmon.
It’s a relaxed moment away from the field, where Bergeson said “there’s no question about his effort.”
As a competitor, Moore acknowledges it was difficult to choose between baseball, where he played second base, and soccer before high school.
“I chose soccer and ran with it,” Moore said. “I honestly don’t know why. I don’t think there was a certain thing — it was flipping a coin. I’ll always love baseball and miss it.”
Moore, who holds a 3.56 grade-point average, plans stick with soccer “as far as it takes me.”
Whenever it does end, he doesn’t plan to move away from adrenaline-seeking activities.
He plans to enroll in West Sound Tech next fall to study fire science.