NOBLE — Larry Worden didn't intend to coach the Noble girls' soccer team for more than one season.
But here the 63-year old Worden is, 11 years later, leading the Bears into their Class 5A state playoff opener Tuesday against Heritage Hall at Norman's Alcott Middle School.
“Coach Worden is so steady,” said Noble athletic director Rick Sodowsky. “He's a big asset for us. The girls love him; they like to play for him, and that translates to a lot of the success.”
Worden retired from education in 2000 as Crooked Oak's middle school principal to help run his family's farm. On New Year's Day 2002, he got a call asking if he'd be willing to coach the Noble girls for just one season.
“Then the next year, I was sitting at home in January and got another call, ‘Where are you at?'” Worden remembered with a laugh.
This year, Noble is 10-3. The Bears have suffered just two losing seasons under Worden.
The last few years, it's helped to have a leader like Shelbie West.
West, who has signed to play at Oklahoma Baptist, is one of two seniors on Noble's team this year, along with Morgan Brittan.
When the two were juniors last year, the Bears started five freshmen and went 7-7, losing 10-0 to eventual state runner-up Deer Creek in the first round of the playoffs.
This year, Noble starts West, Brittan and two juniors, but the rest are underclassmen, as is all the help off the bench.
West has been the team's leading scorer the past two seasons.