The underdogs


The Spartans opened up the district tournament on Monday seeded dead last at fifth seed. They closed the tournament yesterday as district champions. The team kicked off the tournament on Monday with a game against Fort Zumwalt North.

“The game started out shaky but we got comfortable and played our game. After our second goal we knew it was over,” junior center back Andrew Keller said.

The team shut down North’s defensively, and found their way to the back of the net through North’s defense winning 3-0.

Immediately after their win on Monday, the team began preparing for their game against Francis Howell, who was ranked top 10 in the area and seeded first in the tournament. The Spartans reviewed their strategies and tweaked their formation to adapt to Howell’s three forward formation. Then right before the game on Tuesday the team was still strategizing and analyzing their game, and Howell’s game as well.

“An hour and a half before the game we met in Coach [Nick] Beckmann’s room to watch film on Howell, we talked about different strategies and what we needed to do, just the mental preparation for it,” senior goalie Scott Halbert said.

That night, the Spartans came out strong, scoring within the first two minutes with a key breakaway from senior forward Erik Elsenrath whose shot was deflected off the goalie right to junior midfielder Marc Crawford for the easy goal. This early success fueled the Spartans with confidence and set the tone for the rest of the game.

“It was a great start, because it gave us the momentum to move forward through the game. We started believing in ourselves more, thinking that we can do it, and just shock everyone,” junior center midfielder Jordan Henderson said.

The momentum that the team built up with that early goal kept the ball rolling, and the Spartans were able to fend off the Vikings for the rest the game, winning 1-0.

“The defining moment of my career was watching Howell’s seniors cry, walking off our field,” Halbert said.

With this victory the team advanced to the district finals, where the Spartans faced off against Fort Zumwalt South. For the first half the teams battled it out, equally matched both were unable to score. Halfway through the second half Elsenrath managed to score, then with ten minutes left junior midfielder Tristyn Hasmer danced his way through several defenders and the goalie and tapped the ball in for another goal. South quickly retaliated in the next minute, scoring a goal themselves. The Spartans fended off South for the rest of the game, fighting until the very end.

“Even in the last 10 seconds we were still focused on playing that ball, communicating and making sure that the ball wasn’t getting anywhere near our goal,” sophomore forward Kyle Setchfield said.

South attempted one last drive, but Crawford managed to kick the ball out of the Spartan’s territory as the clock ticked down to zero. The team exploded in celebration, and the last seed Spartans became district champions. This was the first time in school history that a last seed boys soccer team had become district champions.

“Being in last seed didn’t discourage us; it fueled us. It only made us want to win even more and prove everybody wrong,” senior forward Nick McCullough said.

After this big win, the Spartans are looking forward to sectionals.

“Hop on the bandwagon, because we aren’t done yet,” said Henderson.

The team improves to the sectional game against rival Howell North on Tuesday at home.