Dream comes true for close group of players
It has been a long road for the St. Andrew's boys soccer team, a group of about 20 guys, but at the end of it all, they can hold their heads high as champions.
The St. Andrew’s Saints beat Clarkdale, 1-0, in the MHSAA Class I State Soccer Championships on Feb. 6, at Clinton High School. Jackson Bataille, a senior on the team, said that this is something he has been thinking about for a long time.
“I have been dreaming about that moment for six years since the seventh grade when I joined the team at St. Andrews,” he said.
But it was the opportunity to do it with his best friends that clinched it.
“There is nothing like getting to play your favorite sport with the people you love the most,” Bataille said. “Soccer can really unite a group of people. It is really a sport where you can express yourself with every move you make.”
Head Coach Scott Crawford said that he has worked with these guys, specifically this senior class of eight young men, for four years. Bataille said that many of the seniors had been playing the sport together for as many as the years together.
“I am just proud,” Crawford said. “It is just fantastic for these guys. I am so proud they overcame a lot of adversity to get here and they earned it.”
St. Andrew’s boys soccer have been to the playoffs two years in a row, losing out both seasons in the title game. The team has suffered tragedy. Four years ago they lost Liam Galaty, a teammate and friend of many of the seniors.
“He meant a lot to those guys and meant a lot to this team and they were able to dedicate that game to him,” Crawford said.
The team also underwent a midseason coaching change and Crawford had to step up from his position as an assistant coach to take the helm of the team. Crawford said that his guys used their experience in two previous finals to manage their emotions and execute when they needed to.
“The atmosphere was electric,” Crawford said.
Bataille said that the team’s determination was palpable.
“I think we came into this game prepared with the proper mindset and intensity,” Bataille said. "We should have put some balls in the net early but we controlled the ball well and we knew we could win it. Everyone was focused. I have never seen anything like that in my friends' eyes.”
Freshman Jonathan Livingston has not waited quite as long, but he did get some playing time in last year’s final and had the same taste for blood many of the seniors were feeling. He scored the game-winning goal with about 20 minutes left in overtime.
The team scored on a throw-in. Livingston said he remembered with astonishing detail the ball passing between teammates and several shots being deflected. Finally one landed in front of him and he had an opening. He shot the ball into the bottom left of the goal. He said scoring was like coming out of some kind of haze.
“I would say seeing that ball cross the line woke me up,” Livingston said.
“It was indescribable,” Bataille said. “Our first reaction was to celebrate but then we realized we had to play for another 20 minutes.”
Bataille, Livingston and their teammates would control the ball for the remaining time.
“The most fun part of being on a team is the relationships and bond you build with these guys,” Bataille said. “It is the best feeling in the world. I remember when the game ended I really took that moment to cherish these last moments and reflect on younger days when I was just getting into soccer.”
Crawford said that the lessons his guys learned during this challenging season are the important thing they will take with them.
“They showed perseverance and the ability to cope with challenges and move forward and I think that is the most valuable thing these kids have learned and what they will aka with them as they move forward in life,” Crawford said.