Regardless of what happens at this weekend’s Final Four, the Journal wants to recognize the accomplishment of the SoBoCo Eagles soccer team.
Not just that they won a thrilling double-overtime game over Father Tolton High School with a “golden goal” by Rajesh Bennett that ended the 98-minute contest, but the SoBoCo boys soccer program won its eighth consecutive district title.
Then they won the Sectional title in another overtime thriller over Oak Grove and shocked Monett, winning 1-0 on the road.
The Eagles soccer program has become this dynasty under the coaching of Chris Miller, who has preached defense and blue-collar play at Southern Boone since he arrived in 2007 – when he won the first district title for Southern Boone.
Another coaching great, late Michigan football coach Bo Schmbechler is known for giving one of the great locker room speeches of all time which embodies the spirit and culture Miller has created with the Eagles soccer program.
In the pre-season speech, Schembechler told his players, “We want to win the Big Ten championship and we’re gonna win it as a Team. They can throw out all those great backs and great quarterbacks and great defensive players,……but there’s gonna be one Team that’s gonna play solely as a Team. No man is more important than The Team. No coach is more important than The Team.
The Team, The Team, The Team, The Team.”
Schembechler noted that players in that locker room might go on to play for a contract or a professional organization – but they would never again have a chance to play for “The Team.”
It has not been much different in the culture of Miller’s Eagles soccer teams.
It is a culture of discipline – players line their bags up behind the bench in certain way, they dress in uniform a certain way, they practice and warm up a certain way – all the time.
It is a culture of togetherness and cohesion – players support one another all the time, as well as work to make each other better. They don’t criticize one another and go out of their way to compliment their teammates to this reporter. They don’t waste game time by discussing – or critiquing – calls by the referee. Their support for one another for the past 10 years borders on being a brotherhood – past players show up for district title games and players now living three and four states away follow and post congratulatory messages on social media, for example.
When the Eagles win those district and sectional titles and go to the Final Four, the team huddles, holds the trophy up high and everyone gets to touch it as the coach and his assistants watch. It is their reward for playing as The Team.
Regardless what happens this weekend, this Eagles team – not exactly the favorite to repeat as district champions and certainly not picked to play in the Final Four this season – once again came together to win the school’s eighth consecutive district soccer title plus two more close games and will represent their school and our community at the state championships.
Of course, the lesson here is easy to see. High school sports mostly still exist as an extension of an athlete’s education. The lessons above learned and executed by these soccer players will last them a lifetime. Learning the lessons of sacrifice, discipline, teamwork, these student-athletes can accomplish all they set their minds to as adults.
Congratulations to the Eagles soccer team, coach Chris Miller and his staff.
If it wasn’t a dynasty before now, let it officially be called a dynasty forever more: Southern Boone Eagles soccer – 8 Straight District Championships. Fourth trip to the Final Four.
The Team, The Team, The Team, The Team.