Through two winless seasons it would be easy for Thunder Mountain High School’s boys soccer team to hang their heads, mail it in, or just transfer to Juneau-Douglas High School. But like Confucius, the Falcons boys know their greatest glory isn’t to never fall, but rather to rise every time they fall.
Senior Ben Garrett, speaking after a 6-0 senior night loss to JDHS, said he is proud to be part of a resilient group that never indulged in self-pity or negative attitudes.
“These coaches, they enforce positive attitudes,” Garrett said. “That’s one of the most important things because that’s contstantly a battle if you’re going to lose a lot and go against teams like JD who are really, really good. You have to have a positive attitude, so it helps to have great coaches who reinforce that.”
TMHS graduates six seniors this year: Joyh Seymour, Rifqi Zulfahmi, Jeremiah Stephens, Ma’ake Ma’ake, Andrew Clark and Ben Garrett. The boys have gone through three different head coaches in their careers, and they’ve seen a huge improvement under the tutelage of head coach Tim Lewis and assistant coach Josh Odum, who are the first pair to coach this group for longer than one season.
“If I look back from where we started freshman year, we’re in a lot better place,” Garrett said. “It’s taken a long time and we’ve had a lot of obstacles: the changing of coaches or people moving to JD, moving (out of town) or just deciding not to play. Throughout all that we’re a better team still and that’s just a really big deal to me because it’s about building the program.”
Odum has worked with standout goalkeeper John Seymour since his youth soccer years. Seymour feels he wouldn’t be the same keeper without Odum’s help, and that the team has improved substantially under coach Lewis.
“I think Tim (Lewis) and Josh (Odum) staying has been very important to the program,” Seymour said. “Just from the beginning of the year they’ve progressed the program so much. A lot of these freshmen have seen so much growth,” Seymour said.
“(The growth) has been exponential,” Garrett said.
“The coaches are like fire and water, but they work very well together. It’s just going to build up from here,” Stephens said. “I am looking forward to see what these freshmen are going to do.”
Ma’ake, a senior striker who’s going on to play college football at El Camino College, said he will miss practicing with his soccer family the most.
“My favorite thing about soccer was just coming to practice with a bunch of positive people around you,” he said. “They’re always cheering you on, they’re like another family that you can count on, on and off the field.”
Clark agreed, saying, “I think I’ll always remember practices. They’re very focussed but they’re always fun. I think if we keep building the way we have, the freshmen this year, when they’re seniors, will have a shot at state.”
A couple more highlights the boys mentioned:
Most victorious moment: “Probably second half of the North Pole game. We were just on point. We didn’t win, but we dominated the field,” Garrett said.
Favorite team quote: “Play clean, but aggressive, and always work twice as hard as your opponent,” Ma’ake said. “When I ask (coach Josh Odum) if I can play dirty, he said ‘a little bit,’” said Zulfahmi, who is known for the catchphrase, “Oh, it’s so hot!”, which he once said after a particularly hard shot.