As the fall sports season concludes, many local teams are celebrating their year with banquets to honor their players and coaches.
At Northwest High School, that was no different. On Wednesday night, the cafetorium was packed with parents, players, and coaches from the Mohawks soccer community to celebrate a historic 19-1 season.
Throughout 2017, records were broken, history was made, and memories were shared. The banquet offered a chance to share the success of the season, but also thank those behind the scenes who played a large role in the process both on and off the field.
Head coach Josh Keeney had plenty of people to thank. He expressed gratitude to the parents, administration, boosters, assistants, and most importantly his wife April.
“From the time we started the season, I get out of bed at five o’clock in the morning and come here and workout and then go to school and teach and go to the soccer field,” Keeney said. “Most of the time, I’m not home until 10 or 11 o’clock at night. I’m gone all day, and that’s for three months straight.”
“We don’t have much time. I had a kid. She spent 99 percent of the time with that kid, while I’m out here spending all this time with your kids. I’m not complaining at all.”
Keeney credits April for inspiring him to continue coaching, as he was questioning whether or not to keep going when he found out he was having a kid.
“This year, when we I knew we were going to have a kid, I said “Do you really think I should keep coaching?” and she said “Listen, you would not be yourself if you weren’t coaching soccer.” I want to thank her for that, I appreciate it,” Keeney said.
Several seniors also shared some gratefulness to different members of the Northwest soccer community.
“I would like to thank my coaches and all the people that made this season possible,” Mason Campbell said. “This is definitely a season that I personally will never forget.”
“From the first day of conditioning, I knew this was going to be a good season, from everyone’s overall drive and determination and from the way Coach pushed us.”
For Tyler Webb, he thanked his parents for all they’ve done over the years.
“I would like to thank my parents Darren and Tabby for all they did for me and the entire team,” Webb said. “All the years that we’ve played, they’ve been to everything. They’ve helped out, and I couldn’t ask for better parents.”
“Mom would always scream at us to be better on the field, and Dad would always scream at the other parents when they yelled at us.”
Webb wasn’t stopping at his own parents, though. He was happy to credit the other parents as well.
“A big thanks to all the other parents out there who supported us through everything,” Webb said. “It’s not much soccer if there’s nobody there to look at it.”
Hunter Berry also had a different group to shout out.
“I would like to thank everybody that came out to support us this year,” Berry said.
Reflecting back on his career, Berry remembers Darren Webb coming to him in middle school and trying to convince him to play soccer again.
“I was iffy about playing, because I hadn’t played since I was eight,” Berry said. “Now, I will never regret my decision of playing soccer with the best team in the county.”
Of course, Berry also talked about what Keeney has done for him in his four years of playing.
“Coach Keeney helped me believe that the sky is the limit,” Berry said. “There wasn’t a day at practice or games that he doubted us, which made us play even harder. He helped me believe that you will not regret leaving your blood, sweat, and tears on the field.”
Indeed, the sky has been the limit for the Mohawks under Keeney. Each year, Northwest has either improved on their record from the season before or won the same amount of games.
It wasn’t always easy, though.
“I’m not going to lie, we were bad when I took over,” Keeney said. “We had won one or two games for like 10 years in a row, and I didn’t really want to coach soccer because I knew it was a big task.”
To get to where the Mohawks are at now, Keeney established goals each year to help sustain the outlook of the program’s future.
“In my first year, let’s try to win more than one game,” Keeney said as the crowd erupted in laughter. “I think we were like 6-9. Next year, a winning season was our goal. We finished 9-7 I think.”
This season, Northwest won 19 games.
“Everyone’s told me it’s going to be a big task for next year, because every year we’ve gotten better,” Keeney said. “Next year is going to be rough, but we’ll give it a shot.”
A large part of the success this season came from a solid senior class that worked hard over the years to constantly improve.
Keeney gives a large portion of that attitude to girls soccer head coach Tim Amburgey, who spent a lot of time coaching those seniors before taking the girls head coaching position.
“When this group of seniors came in, he was a big part of why these seniors have had as much success as they’ve had,” Keeney said. “He started with me with these seniors, he had them for a few years before he moved over to the girls team, so he was a big part of why we won 19 games this year.”
Also not to be overlooked is the aid that assistant coaches Jacob Hackworth and Chaise Hall have provided to the team.
Hackworth emphasized the careers of the seniors, and used it to motivate returning players during his speech at the banquet.
“For us returning coaches and players, I think we would be showing disrespect if we didn’t come ready to get in the weight room, play futsal, play in the spring, and work hard to get back where these guys got you,” Hackworth said.
His speech was concluded with high praise for Keeney.
“I want everyone to know, in my opinion, this is the best coach in Ohio,” Hackworth said. “I believe he was SOC Coach of the Year for the second year in a row, and District Coach of the Year.”
Keeney intervened “I’ve got good assistants.”
When you look at the attitude and mentality of the Mohawks, it seems obvious that this won’t be the last you hear from them.
“75 percent of our guys are doing something to get ready for next year already,” Keeney said. “When you have a winning season, it’s contagious.”
Although the head coach can be a little hard on his kids sometimes (some players compared his practices to a military training session) there’s nothing but tough love to go around to the members of the Northwest soccer team.
“I love each and every one of these guys,” Keeney said. “Honestly, we’d probably take a bullet for any one of these guys here and I think if you asked them the same question they would probably do the same for me.”
Though the task seems tall of improving on their record from this year, if anyone can do it, it’s the Northwest Mohawks.
Reach Benjamin Spicer at (502)264-7318 on Twitter @BSpicerPDT or at Facebook.com/ReporterBenSpicer