In a sense, playoff games reward a team for success during the regular season. When other teams have turned in their equipment, a top-four district finish means you get a postseason t-shirt that the entire school can wear and the promise of playing at least one more game on a bigger stage.
For the local boys soccer teams achieving that privilege – Keller, Keller Fossil Ridge, Justin Northwest and Keller Central – it was more than a consolation prize. It was an opportunity to make a run for a larger, more prestigious ranking or even a state tournament berth and a championship.
So it comes as a bit of disappointment when the season ends after the first round, as it did for all four schools.
Still, there’s plenty to reflect on as the dust settles on the 2017 season.
Coaches shared some of the behind-the-scenes details that tell the tale of how success was achieved.
Take for instance, Keller, which started the season 2-10. The Indians then won nine of their last 10 games.
“It’s a tough way to end,” Keller head coach Jason Bates said. “It showed a tremendous amount of character. We overcame adversity and distractions at the beginning of the year. We really showed what we are in the last 10 games.”
Bates noted Keller scored 20 goals in those last 10 games and allowed only five.
“Every player was accepting and understood their role. They were true team players.”
A turning point seemed to be the game with Central on Feb. 3, when they won in a shootout with the Chargers.
But behind the scenes, Bates said the players came together and decided to take a positive track and stay confident.
“Their buy-in was crucial,” he said. And it paid dividends.
At Fossil Ridge, a team going into the playoffs with the second seed from the district, the key word was “selfless.”
“It didn’t matter who was hot, these guys knew what it took to be successful,” said Ridge head coach James Moore. “We had five guys with five or more goals and numerous assists. They knew whoever needed to score or to fill in the gaps – whatever the team needed, whatever needed to be done to win, they did it. I’ll always think about how selfless this group was.”
The Panthers turned a corner from a season in which they didn’t qualify for the playoffs last year to one which saw them within one and a half games of a district title.
“They wanted a chance to control what happened,” Moore said.
They were committed off the field, as well, noted Moore, saying the players were academically strong with an expected five or six academic all-state possibilities on the roster.
“I think there’s a direct correlation,” Moore said of the academic and athletic commitment.
The ability to manage the little things helped the overall success, he said.
“We could worry about soccer and nothing else. When you manage the little things, the big picture takes care of itself real quick.”
Northwest’s seniors were the epitome of perseverance.
That group stuck with the program through a single varsity district win in the prior four years.
“A lot of guys have quit or given up amidst those trying circumstances,” said Northwest head coach Sam Strader. “But these guys have refused to quit. They worked hard, stuck together and stepped up as leaders to turn around the results.”
Strader was quick to admit it wasn’t the seniors alone.
“We’ve had a strong group of juniors who’ve contributed goals, assists and solid defending. We’ve also relied on a few sophomores who have stepped up to fill a few holes that we had in the lineup.”
Overcoming injuries and learning new positions were just some of the obstacles the Texans overcame to develop character and success this year, Strader said. The addition of a new assistant coach also proved instrumental.
“It has been a tremendous year of improvement that we look to build upon in the future,” Strader said.
Central continued to show it’s an annual bet for a playoff spot.
The program has built pride in itself and the players who pass through it.
Twitter was full of sentiments of their pride in the program from seniors now reluctantly moving on and those who are proud of the chance to be a part of the Chargers’ program.