BOONE — The Mellow Mushroom Invitational was a soccer tournament created by former Watauga coach Doug Kidd that featured good teams making the trip to Boone to play in a four-team tournament.
Shortly after Kidd departed for Swansboro, the tournament ceased to exist, until Josh Honeycutt brought it back last year.
Honeycutt is keeping the tournament going for its second year back this weekend with games on Aug. 30-31. Watauga plays the first game at 5 p.m. on Aug. 30 against Asheville at Jack Groce Stadium. Swansboro and Mount Tabor play each other in the second game.
The Pioneers have a score to settle with Cougars as Asheville handed visiting Watauga a 1-0 loss in the third round of the state 3-A playoffs. The stakes won’t be as high at the Invitational, but winning the game would be nice, at least for Honeycutt.
“We definitely have a huge test for us on Friday,” Honeycutt said. “It’s going to be a battle for sure. They’re the team that put us out of the playoffs and they’ve got a lot of guys back. They’ve got a lot of guys back and they’re playing really well right now.”
Watauga won’t play any games from Aug. 24 until the Pioneers face Asheville. Honeycutt is fine with not stepping on the field until Aug. 30 since it will give the Pioneers a chance to rest from the week of Aug. 19-24 that saw them play three games.
“I’m actually thankful for it because we’ve got a few guys who are banged up right now, so that will give us some time to hopefully get rested and healed up before we start the tournament,” Honeycutt said.
Honeycutt said there is a lot involved in organizing the tournament. It’s a chance for the Pioneers to see programs that are playoff-caliber, which he hopes will help the Pioneers defend their Northwestern Conference championship and make another deep run in the playoffs.
“It’s definitely something that you have to put a little time and effort into,” Honeycutt said. “Mellow Mushroom, who is sponsoring the tournament, has been phenomenal. They do a lot of the legwork for us and cover the cost of some of the t-shirts and stuff like that. They really help. It’s definitely time consuming, but it’s worth it.”
Kidd has turned Swansboro (1-1-1) into a soccer power in the 3-A division. The Pirates have become a fixture in the playoffs under Kidd’s leadership, having reached the playoffs the last four seasons, including the fourth round twice, the third round another season and the second round last year.
Mount Tabor (1-0) reached the state Western Regional 3-A last season before losing to Marvin Ridge 3-1.
“Obviously we want to win the thing,” Honeycutt said. “You always want to win your own tournament. Even if we don’t win, I would really like to see us continue to develop. We’ve got a lot of things to work on and we’re still a young team, but there are some things we need to adjust and tweak and be a little more solid and not be so panicked at times.”