As March begins, the boys' soccer team closes their season. With a successful run this year, the team's 11 seniors leave Eagle Rock with the title of CIF champions and full hearts.
Captains Charlie Keagle and Romeo Portillo serve as the faces of the soccer team, leading them and pushing them to be the best they can be. When asked about becoming captain, Charlie explained how it felt “naturally decided”. After assisting with leading the team on the field in previous years, the role of captain wasn't hard to adjust to. However, the feeling that they were lacking something last season rang heavy in their hearts, which brought them a new level of determination to get further into playoffs this year. “Coming off of last season, it felt unfulfilled without a city title, so coming into senior year I wanted to give everyone something to be proud of,” Romeo explains. Thanks to daily practice and countless injuries, the team was able to bring home the title of CIF champions.
The four all agree that the experience of winning was beyond surreal, especially after all the buildup to the moment. “Coming to Eagle Rock, we weren’t really looked at as a soccer school, so being able to win in our senior year felt like a bit of a false reality,” Ryland Bailey-Roque comments. “Since seventh grade, a bunch of us planned to join the team, so at the end of those six years to have something to really show for it was just unbelievable,” Cooper Darling adds. Though in previous years coming this far felt impossible, starting last year they had newfound perseverance. Last season the team made it to the playoffs, but ended up losing the first round. Entering the season this year, they planned to come in with a new attitude and a “chip on their shoulders”, as they were filled with a new hunger to get further than before.
Being in their final semester of high school, the seniors face the realities of college acceptances, exams, and graduation. As they continued to get further into playoffs with the pressure of the future laying on their shoulders, they agreed that it was a bit difficult to push through one of the most critical times of their high school careers. “We wanted to put as much time as we could into soccer, but we’d be coming back home super late… all tired, sore, and mentally drained -- especially with college and everything,” Charlie says. “Soccer kind of set the tone for the level of diligence I want in my academic life as well”. Though playing sports comes with a high level of anxiety, the team looks to each other and their end goal in times of need. The four agree that their bond can be compared to one of a family, considering they spend much of their time with each other. Having just come out of COVID in their Junior years, the four all agree that it came with a sense of determination. “Last year was really a rebuilding for the team, we had new players, veterans who had played, but it was just about establishing the connection,” Romeo tells us. After having to spend close to two years apart, the 21-22 season served as an important stepping stone for the team.
The team attributes much of their success to the graduates of last year, especially captains Abraham Yun and Josh Horn. “Abraham was a great leader for many of us, especially to me,” Cooper says. “When we came in at the end of eighth grade, he was the most supportive towards all the new players, so I feel like I can credit a lot to him”. Charlie adds that a large part of the determination to win came from their love for their late teammate Juan Hernandez. Juan had passed away in their freshman year but left a big impact on the lives of not only his team but the school community as well.
“After Juan passed away I didn’t really wanna play soccer anymore but he was the reason I kept playing my Junior and senior year,” Ryland says. “He told me I was a good player and those words just stuck with me”.
Though their time with our team is up, they all hope to continue playing soccer in college. After winning city this year, they hope that the future team can win state next year. Leaving the team with encouraging “words of wisdom”, they are confident that the underclassmen are ready to take on the challenge next year. “This whole soccer experience, especially this year, was the best way possible to cap it off,” says Ryland. They hope to stay close friends through the future as they wait for college decisions to roll in. Charlie, Ryland, and Romeo all agree that Cooper is heading to Harvard (to which he jokingly says he’s “PCC-Bound!”), but they hope that distance won’t come in the way of their friendship.
“At the end of the day, I think when we all leave next year we wanna come back and let everyone know we’re still here for them,” Romeo tells us. “Even if we aren’t at this school anymore”. The dynamic between the seniors and the rest of the team is a special one, that can especially be seen through the discussion of a hypothetical horror movie. When asked who on the team would die first, the four mutually agreed on their teammate Gabriel. “He’s extremely gullible,” Charlie pauses. “Oh- and he definitely lacks the physical”.
Though this year's seniors leave our soccer team for now, they’ll be sure to leave a lasting mark on everyone. “I mean, we treat each other as brothers and we’re always there for each other,” says Cooper. “And even in a few years, we’ll still see each other as brothers”. The efforts made by them are unforgettable, and will definitely be remembered for years to come.