Goodbye to Hoban soccer (but this time it’s for real)


photo via Dylan Farah

I keep replaying it in my head like a movie. The ball soars over the back left side of the defensive line. Colin Bendo is chasing it down, but the Copley winger is too fast. Taking it to the baseline, he lays it off to the waiting attacker about five yards to the left of the penalty box. A one-touch shot from 12 yards down my left-hand side. I feel the ball brush my fingertips. 

I’ve played goalkeeper since kindergarten, training day in and day out, sacrificing my body to keep the ball from catching the nylon netting behind me. I’ve seen it all. I knew what was coming next.

My high school soccer career was over.

Staring up at the lights of Copley Field, I exhaled fully. Inhaling, though, wasn’t so simple. The tears made it difficult to distinguish between the night sky and the illuminating glow of stadium lights. Slowly, I sat up and looked out at the field. My 10 brothers, my fellow soldiers, my fellow warriors, all lay defeated on the field.

For what felt like hours, we mourned in our own defensive third. Copley players came and congratulated me on a good game, only succeeding in making me more upset. 

From that point on, nothing really seemed to matter. It didn’t matter how many parents congratulated me on the 14 saves I’d made. It didn’t matter how bad the turf burn ached rubbing against the school pants I changed into. Even when I walked back onto the field once everyone had left, taking in the lights, the goals and the benches—even in that poetic moment, I couldn’t help but feel numb.

It did matter. It did, and I think a part of me knew that, but it was too late to change anything. It was already over.

The bus ride back to Hoban didn’t make me feel better, either. I thought back on all of the bus rides I’d taken in seasons past: freshman year, getting invited to sit in the back with Nico Londa and the rest of the seniors; sophomore year, hearing Tom Pelini, Parker Fisher and Mikey Burrington yelling “you like that” after every away game victory; and junior year, starting the “I believe” chant after beating Walsh on their home field for the first time in school history. All the memories from this season came flooding back, too (including, but not limited to, “Mayonnaise Neck,” the Bloons Tower Defense saga and “you look like a Pumpkin Patch”). 

The bus rides were one of the best parts of BSOC. On any given game day, I could’ve had three tests and tanked them all, but once I stepped onto the yellow school bus, I had no choice but to smile. So, as I boarded the bus for the last time, I could feel the corners of my lips turn up just a touch.

20 minutes later, as I descended the bus stairs for the last time, I couldn’t help but think back to some of my most treasured firsts: my first varsity game freshman year against Ellet, the first penalty kick I ever saved sophomore year against Wooster and even the time I saw Athletic Director Mike Delmedico at Sam’s Club and, being a particularly bold seventh grader, declared myself the future varsity goalkeeper of his soccer team—my first time realizing I wanted to play for the Knights.

Five years later, I still feel like that seventh grader. Him and I both fear losing the familiar comfort of the friendships—the brotherhoods—we have so long cultivated. We both go into the backyard and kick the ball around on a bad day. We both love Mom, we both want to be like Dad, we both dislike the Yankees and we both hate scary movies.

However, while baby John merely dreamed of wearing the neon jersey, Hoban “H” plastered on the pectoral, the current model can’t imagine life without it.