David and Thomas Knerr have often found themselves on the same soccer field in past years as members of the Augusta Arsenal and teammates at Augusta Prep. However, Saturday's home opener for the Georgia Southern men's soccer team in Statesboro, Ga., was a unique setting for a family reunion.
David and his Georgia Southern teammates began the season Saturday afternoon against Mercer University, where Thomas is a freshman for the Bears this year. The rare family meeting was enough for the Knerr family and Augusta Prep boys soccer coach Forrest Wimberly to make the trip down to Statesboro.
"I think it's great for the Knerr family to have two players here," Wimberly said. "I remember them when they were U14 and U15 with the Arsenal and then to work with them in high school, and now see them take that next step is great."
The game, which ended with a 3-1 Georgia Southern win, stopped short of a dramatic brother vs. brother showdown. Both are in their first year of college competition and Thomas, who had been with the team only two weeks when the season started Saturday, was in the press box for the first half videotaping the game.
However, with Georgia Southern holding a 2-1 lead the second half, both Knerr brothers got into the game at the same time.
"As soon as he got out there he took the ball away and dribbled down into the corner and I yelled 'Hey T,'" David said. "He made eye contact and gave me a nod but that's about it. When you're out there with your team you can't do much more than that during the game."
Georgia Southern eventually scored a third goal and, playing a man down because of a red card, fell back into a defensive strategy for most of the second half. The defensive tightening left David Knerr up front as Georgia Southern's only true offensive player on the field. The strategy resulted in a tired David Knerr and an Eagle win.
"It wasn't really anything new. We had to be defensive-minded, so I just tried to keep the pressure on as much as I could," David Knerr said.
Columbia County's influence at Saturday's game reached beyond the reunion of two former Augusta Prep stars. Former Evans standouts Joey Ralph and Chad Strader were both on the Georgia Southern sideline as freshmen on the team this year. Also, the game was the first for former Augusta Aresenal director Kevin Kennedy, who took over as head coach of the Eagles soccer program earlier this year.
While David Knerr was the only one of the three former Columbia County athletes on the Eagles' bench to get into Saturday's game, Kennedy said he expects all three to make a bigger impact in the future.
"We have a young team, and one of the things we're going to have to do is go with our youth," Kennedy said. "Long term, they're all solid players, but with such a large roster they'll have to wait their turn.
"David did a great job in the role that we asked of him today."
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