With the fall sports season almost in the books, the careers of several seniors have come to a close in terms of athletics.
For the Minford Falcons, that narrative is no different. The boys and girls soccer team had a combined 13 seniors on their roster this season, a group of kids who stuck together from peewee soccer throughout high school.
Along the way, soccer skills sharpened and new friendships were built. Those relationships carried on to high school, and now those seniors are just several months away from graduation. Still, they are proud of what their school and teams mean to them.
“To be a Minford Falcon is like being a part of another family,” Marissa Risner said. “It’s a community that people have your back no matter what happens.”
Over the years, each player learned a lot about one another both on and off the pitch, and it played a factor on the field.
“Growing up and playing soccer all these years, we’ve definitely grown to know each other’s personalities on and off the field,” Erin Daniels said. “I think we all can hold each other accountable if we’re not playing well. We can get on each other’s butts and we won’t pout about it, we’ll take it serious and I think that’s a thing that not a lot of teams have.”
“I think it helped us know our strengths and weaknesses and pick each other up. We are a family for sure, we’re all super close and its bittersweet being able to play soccer together since we were little kids.”
Through trials and tribulations in soccer, a lot of lessons were taught along the way.
“We really learned how to work together well,” Logan Boston said. “Where everybody was going to be, where to move the ball to, just how we played all helped us work together as a unit.”
Elijah Craft felt the same about the team working together, and expanded on that idea.
“We know each other’s play styles since we’ve played together for so long,” Craft said. “Eli is a good passer and shooter when he does shoot, Zach is a great defender, Jacob works hard every day. Logan improved as a goalie, he helped us a lot this year to keep us in games.”
Those relationships formed on the field extended beyond the sport, and into the lives of each athlete.
“We had great bonding between everybody, and it made us stronger as people,” Jacob Smith said.
Though some may not have soccer to look forward to anymore, they’ll still have each other.
“I think playing together really helped us all through the years,” Risner said. “We may not have ever been friends with them if we hadn’t been playing together.”
All in all, the seniors were around to share a lot of success with each other over time.
As freshman, both the boys and the girls team won the SOC. That moment was one to be cherished and remembered for many of the aforementioned Minford Falcons.
“When the girls won SOC our freshman year, the boys also won SOC that year,” Daniels said. “After our game when it was determined we had won, the boys team ran across the field and it was one big celebration for both teams. That was awesome, it still gives me cold chills.”
Eli Cordle recalls those matches as a freshman, but enjoys a more recent memory from his team.
“I really enjoyed beating Wheelersburg on their own field last year and winning SOC,” Cordle said.
For others like Craft, the memories were of a more humorous variety.
“My favorite memory was when I got a red card for hitting the ball with my hand inside the goal,” Craft said. “I just punched the ball out, and they gave me a red card.”
All of the seniors laughed reflecting on Craft’s moment, although he seemed to still be a bit curious about if the penalty was warranted.
Of course on any team, you have the personalities that make up more than just what happens in a game or at practice. The Falcons seniors are no different with the characters they have on their roster.
“Jacob is our moral support guy,” Boston said.
Craft added “he’s the one that cracks the jokes” and said that Smith has the dankest memes on the team.
The girl’s team had that same camaraderie, according to Marissa Watters.
“As we’ve grown, we’ve gotten new strengths,” Watters said. “By the time we’re playing together on the field, we know where each person is at. I can kick the ball to Erin, and she’ll automatically know where Marissa [Risner] is at.”
Though there is a lot to be missed about their time together, there were several different answers when it came to what would be missed most specifically.
“I think I speak for everybody, we’ll probably miss the team breakfasts,” Watters said.
That comment struck in a smile in Daniel’s face, who reminisced on all those occasions of eating together as a team.
“After we had our senior banner pictures, we’d all go to the airport to eat,” Daniels said. “Just different times after games we would go out and eat one last time together with us seniors.”
Daniels loved those meals with her team, but will miss a different feeling on the field.
“The hype you get after scoring a goal or when someone makes a great save,” Daniels said. “When we win a big game, I think that’s a real exciting thing and that’s something we’ll all miss.”
Craft will also miss a peculiar part of the pitch.“Playing underneath the lights at our home field” is what Craft said he would miss the most.
As could be expected, the teams have had a lot of competition amongst one another over the years, and even against each other. The girls, however, say they have always dominated the boys.
“We beat them in everything, don’t let them lie,” Risner said. “In peewee soccer, we ruled the team.”
That competitive spirit even bled over into some other sports.
“Even in basketball, our all-star teams would always play against each other,” Daniels said. “It would be a big competition of the girls playing the boys, and the girls would always win.”
When asked to defend themselves, the boys had little to offer.
“It’s not worth it anymore,” Boston said.
All those games against each other really helped the girls get tougher on the field, according to Daniels.
“Honestly, playing with the guys growing up, guys are rough,” Daniels said. “That taught us to be just as rough back, we did not back down and we still do not back down from anything. I think that was a big key that helped us.”
Of course, there wasn’t always positive experiences together at the time. Looking back, though, it helped mold each player into the person they are today.
“Zach and Eli’s Dads were our coaches from when we were real little to eighth grade … they were really hard on us,” Risner said. “They didn’t sugarcoat anything, which helps us now. I think we all can get yelled at by a coach and just take it and play better.”
Risner’s comments prompted some repressed memories from Daniels.
“My least favorite memory was Dewey Time,” Daniels said. “Eli’s Dad, at the end of each practice, made us run so much that I hate to run now. We were in very good shape after that, but Dewey Time was a really bad word then.”
Craft wasn’t a big fan of “Dewey Time” either.
“He made it sound fun, but it wasn’t,” Craft said.
As a team, the seniors came together one last time last week for their annual soccer banquet. Some will still be seen on the basketball court this year for Minford, but for others it was the last time as a Falcons athlete.
With their high school lives winding down, the seniors have already thought long and hard about what their futures hold.
“I want to go to Shawnee State and possibly play soccer,” Zach Higbee said. “I’m going to study pre-med, and then go to Ohio State and become an eye doctor.”
Higbee is one of several Minford soccer seniors who say they hope to continue their education at Shawnee State.
Aspen Lambert hopes to become a Bear and get her masters in occupational therapy. Boston, Cordle, and Smith also hope to attend SSU.
Watters is going to Ohio University in Ironton to become a teacher, and Risner is going to Ohio University in Athens to become a speech therapist. Risner really hopes she is able to work in special education.
Daniels committed to play basketball at Ashland University, and is studying education with hopes of becoming a teacher. Craft is still undecided, but will play college soccer somewhere.
While times change and people change over the years, one thing is for sure with this group of seniors: They will always be Minford Falcons, and will represent their school with a ton of pride, just as they did throughout their years together.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer