The sun continues to set over the horizon as the team is presented with their trophy for the third year in a row. Everyone has been in the heat for hours, but no one cares; the smiles on the player's faces, the energy of all the students, it all makes it worth it. Who cares about sunburnt cheeks and growling stomachs when your school's soccer team has just one it's third consecutive state title?
This season, even more than the past two, has been one for the AMHS boys soccer record books. And Saturday was the perfect end to the season.
After a slow start Friday evening during the semi-final game against Cedarcrest, junior midfielder Sam Johnson was happy to start things off with a bang in the championship. "To get things started in such a big game gave us all the momentum. Throughout the entire state tournament, we've scored first, and in the semi-final that didn't happen, so it was good to get back to our style of play," he said. His goal came within the first 3 minutes after kickoff, a beauty from inside the right corner of the box.
The next goal came shortly after from senior Jensen Crisler. What everyone thought was going to be a close game, was already looking like it could be a blowout.
Goals continued to be made minutes after each other; Matt Williams, the Wildcat's leading scorer, netted two and Crisler added another before half. 5-0 at halftime in a championship game? That wasn't what anyone was expecting.
The second half continued in similar fashion; Williams, Crisler, and Diego Rios all added goals to the scoreboard for the Wildcats. Every single rostered player stepped on the field, and at the end of the game, Coach Bartley returned all his starters to the field to finish their season together.
That was the beauty of Saturday's game. Seeing the core group of players who have grown together over the past 3 years finish their careers at Murphy, seeing the new talent that the team has for the upcoming seasons, and seeing all of us, as an Archbishop Murphy family, celebrating with each other.
"It's been a really awesome experience getting to play alongside the guys I did for the past few seasons and getting to lift the trophy with them one last time," Williams, who was one of the team's three captains this year, commented. For him, yesterday marked the last time he'll play competitive soccer, as he does not plan to continue playing in college. "It's still a bitter pill to swallow, but I don't think I'd want to end my career any differently," he told me.
After this championship weekend, other players are also looking towards the future. "Even though we have a ton of seniors leaving, I still have 100% confidence that we will be state contenders next year," sophomore goal keeper Daniel Mycroft believes. Johnson, one of next year's captains, however, knows that next year will be a whole new team. "It's gonna be on myself and the other upperclassmen to bring the younger guys up to speed," he said.
There's no doubt next year will be different. But for now, basking in the glory of 3 state titles is enough to focus on.