Boys Soccer Season in Review 2019

Photo+by+Jackson+Vaughn

Photo by Jackson Vaughn

Freddy Stanley, Chief Editor

The 2019 Jordan High School boys soccer season was one of great ups and downs at Barringer Field. The start of the season saw a lot of new faces for the Falcons. Following the loss of 12 seniors from the 2018 team, coach Justin Finger was forced to field a team featuring a core of younger players. The 2019 roster only saw nine returning players for the Falcons, adding twelve fresh faces to the team.

The youngest of these new players were freshmen Erik Mejia, Jose Pineda, Andrew Rodriguez, and Jaden Reece. There have only been a handful of freshmen to ever make the varsity soccer team, so many were surprised to see not just one, but four freshmen named to the varsity roster. Sophomores Keith Michaels and Luke Alderman also got the call, as well as juniors Nick Mountain and Bo Nuernberger and senior Seddie Wibbels. Seniors Junior Roque and Nathan Mills made their return to the JHS soccer program this season after a one-year absence, helping add experience and depth to the midfield. The Falcons were also able to secure the services of senior Alex Mulet, an exchange student from Majorca, Spain.

The Falcons were led on the year by senior captains Freddy and Joey Stanley. Also returning from last year’s squad were seniors Preston Johnson, Dylan Bristow, Harrison Land, Jim Stanfield and Sean Michaels, as well as juniors Nathan Tucker and Aidan Clark.

The season came at the Falcons fast. After only two weeks of practice to build chemistry within the team, the Falcons fell 2-1 to the Southern Durham Spartans in the first round of the Bull City Cup. Although this loss was crushing for the Falcons, they rebounded admirably and won their next two games in the Bull City Cup, beating Voyager 1-0 and Northern Durham 4-1.  After a loss to the reigning 3A State Champs Chapel Hill and a 1-1 tie with their crosstown rivals Durham Academy, the Falcons ended their non-conference campaign at 2-3-2.

The Falcons suffered yet another setback at the beginning of conference play, losing on the road to Panther Creek by a staggering scoreline of 7-0. For some teams, this might have signaled the end of the road, but for the Falcons, it served as a wake up call that something needed to be changed. After the 7-0 thrashing, Coach Finger and the team decided to turn deploy a 5-3-2 formation, a shape not often played by high school teams. This new formation helped them add strength to the middle of the defense, as well as to funnel their attack towards their two center forwards. The strategic change produced immediate results. The new-look Falcons won three out of their next four games, narrowly losing to conference champions Cary by a score of 3-2.

Nearing the end of conference play, the Falcons needed two wins in their last four games in order to qualify for the state playoffs. The first of these two signature wins came on Senior Night in overtime against Green Level. After a series of clutch saves by goalkeeper Freddy Stanley to close out regulation, forward Aidan Clark headed in a goal in the first overtime period to give the Falcons a 1-0 win.

The second key victory came against crosstown rivals Riverside High School. The Falcons were able to keep another clean sheet, winning 2-0. The two goals by the Falcons came via the feet of freshmen Erik Mejia and Jose Pineda. Mejia scored early off an assist from Alex Mulet, and Pineda earned the second by chasing down a long ball from Luke Alderman, sealing the victory and clinching a playoff spot.

The Falcons finished the season in fifth place in a very strong Tri-8 Conference. Their overall record and key conference wins were enough to push the Falcons into the playoffs as the 23rd seed in the east.

The Falcons matched up against tenth-seeded Apex Friendship in the first round, traveling to play the Patriots as underdogs. The Falcons did not let their status deter them and took it to the home team early. Nearly scoring on multiple chances in the first half, the Falcons entered the half time break deadlocked at 0-0. The Patriots got on the board midway through the first half, however, scoring off of a cross. The Patriots added to their lead just minutes later to make the score 2-0, leaving a long road back for the Falcons. But yet again the Falcons were not discouraged. A Junior Roque free kick blast with four minutes remaining made the score 2-1, giving the Falcons a glimmer of hope. With under a minute left to play, the Falcons got their chance. Another long free kick from Roque yet again posed trouble for the Apex Friendship goalkeeper, forcing him to drop the looped ball right into the mix of Jordan attackers. Bouncing in a melee of Patriots and Falcons, the ball was cleared by a Patriot defender. As soon as the ball was cleared, the Jordan players and coaches immediately appealed for a hand ball. In spite of the vigorous claims, the referee decided not to award a penalty kick to the Falcons — effectively ending the game, and the Falcons season.

Although Jordan fell just short of victory against Apex Friendship, the fighting spirit and attitude of the Falcons can not be ignored. As the heavy underdogs playing on the road, the Falcons were able to closely compete with one of the top teams in the state. The Falcons’ resiliency in this game was a reoccurring theme all season. Early on, the Falcons  lost senior midfield Nathan Mills for the season due to a concussion. The Falcons also lost senior captain and midfielder Joey Stanley for the second half of their conference campaign due to a broken arm, suffered in-game battling Panther Creek. The Falcons were also without junior midfielder Nick Mountain for a series of games mid-season due to a hip injury. The loss of these three key midfielders forced freshman Erik Mejia and Jaden Reece into starring roles and to mature quickly in their young varsity careers. Senior midfielder Seddie Wibbles was also called upon to step into the void left by the injured midfielders. Plagued by injuries all season, the young team was able to fight back and salvage a playoff berth, and nearly pulled off the upset of the season in the first round of the playoffs.

Although the Falcons did not take home any team trophies this season, some players were recognized with individual honors. Junior forward Aidan Clark and senior goalkeeper Freddy Stanley were both named to the Tri-8 All-Conference team. Clark lead the team in scoring with 14 goals on the season, often providing goals when the Falcons needed them most. Senior goalkeeper Freddy Stanley led the Falcons as a captain all season, commanding the back line and making key saves.

The Falcons will be losing eleven seniors with the class of 2020, but next year’s team will be returning plenty of talent and varsity experience.