By Matt Pedigo
C-T News Editor
(Used with permission)
As a thunderstorm rumbled just to the south of Bowling Green’s Drakes Creek Middle School, its peripheral showers peppered a soccer field where history was being made.
The setting sun caught the back edge of the rainfall, and a spectacular rainbow suddenly appeared.
Against a backdrop of every spectral color in the August 16, 2017 sky, a young team clad in red, white and blue appeared on the field for the first time ever in game competition.
On the wet field, the co-ed James E. Bazzell Middle School Patriot soccer team fell 10-0 to a seasoned, speedy, all-boy Drakes Creek Gators squad. But there were no hearts dampened. Each JEBMS boy and girl knew that no matter where Allen County School District-sanctioned soccer went from here, they will always be the first players ever, in the first game ever—intrepid pioneers in the absolute dawn of a new Allen County Schools sport.
“It felt amazing,” eighth-grader Janessa Solomon said after the game. “I’m blessed to be on the first Patriot soccer team. I’m happy to be one of the first players ever, and I’m happy to have wonderful teammates I can play with.”
The games are played with a running clock and two 30-minute halves. In the first half, the Patriots blocked several Gator goal attempts, but some got through. Down 6-0 at halftime, the team still hit the dugout undeterred.
“You are not less than them!” volunteer Assistant Coach Josue Ramirez told the team at halftime as he and Head Coach Emily Williams discussed and drew up offensive and defensive schemes. But the Gators scored more successive goals quickly in the second half, and the game closed out.
One Patriot team captain, Giancarlo Del Valle, also seemed not to take the lopsided opening loss to heart, and urged his teammates to feel the same.
“This just shows we have room for improvement,” he told the squad after the game. “We’ll get better.”
The competition will also get a bit more even, too.
“We played a good team,” Williams said after the game, noting that Drakes Creek may have been the strongest regular-season competition the fledgling Patriot squad will face in their first year.
“I was proud of the effort they put forth,” Williams said of her team. “We worked hard on the offsides rule, and we were never called for being offsides. And we spread out well. I heard a lot of communicating, and that’s something we’ve stressed, too.”
The team made some strong defensive plays, and picked off a few Drakes passes, though the Gators were able to recover and prevent any Patriot goals. Williams said they’ll be working on staying in position—each player generally has a certain area of the field they cover—making more interceptions, marking open players and communicating.
Regardless of the outcome, the JEBMS players knew they were making history, as the first Allen County schools soccer team ever.
“Just being out there and playing was a big accomplishment,” Williams said. She also noted the strong Allen County crowd that turned out for the program’s first outing.
“The community support from our spectators was overwhelming,” Williams said. “To see them all out there—even people who didn’t have a kid on the team, and came to see history being made— was really appreciated.”
The inaugural JEBMS Patriot soccer season features seven games, all on the road. The team played Russellville Junior High School Saturday. There, the Patriots earned their program’s first victory, a decisive 10-3 win.
“We learned a lot from our first game, and we were able to focus on our weaknesses during practice,” Williams said. “The team was able to make improvements in those areas during our second game, and it led to a win.”
The remaining games after this issue’s press time are:
•Wednesday, Aug. 30, 5 p.m., Moss Middle School at Warren Central High School.
•Wednesday, Sept. 6, 5 p.m., Bowling Green Junior High School.
•Wednesday, Sept. 13, 5 p.m., Glasgow Middle School.
•Thursday, Sept. 28, 7 p.m., Warren East Middle School.
The schedule includes coed teams, teams that are all boys and at least one that is all girls. The program’s long-term goals include having separate all-boy and all-girl teams, and to have the current eighth-grade group form the nucleus of a junior varsity program at Allen County-Scottsville High School while having fresh seventh-graders replenish the JEBMS ranks as the current seventh-graders move up. In time, both programs could feed the creation of an AC-S varsity program.
“Everybody wants to see us succeed,” Williams said. “This year won’t be as much about wins and losses as improving and building the program.”
Anyone interested in sponsoring or learning more about the program is invited to email Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org.