The schedule said the rain date was this Saturday. On Tuesday, Coach said the make-up game was Saturday. At practice on Wednesday, all the parents discussed the make-up game that would be on Saturday. Thursday morning, a email was sent out by one of the moms saying that the other team is all showing up for the make up game on Thursday! Today! Calls to the youth center went unanswered. I called my next door neighbor, who happens to be married to the other team’s head coach. Yep, the game is today, yes the schedule says Saturday, yes, they are just as surprised as we are. Emails are sent and even though every single boy on our team has Cub Scouts on Thursday, we’re hoping that they come to this, our last game, instead.
After all, we are one game away from an undefeated season!
Game time arrives and Boo is the first Yellow Jacket to arrive. The entire Volcano team is there, warming up. We set up our camp chairs and wait. The Volcanoes do jumping jacks. They do stretches. Another Yellow Jacket shows up. The Volcanoes do passing drills. I over hear one of the parents say, "Ok, Joey (not his real name), remember our strategy for this game- stay in your lane, be aggressive, intimidate them and score!" Um, ok. Two more Yellow Jackets arrive. Ok, we’re up to 4 now. The parents discuss the change of dates and oh by the way, no one has gotten a hold of our coach at all today. A fifth Yellow Jacket arrives with his dad, our unofficial assistant coach. He gets the kids doing some drills. Two more of our players arrive. We’re now at 7! We won’t have to forfeit, but none of the players will get to rest at all. We know that two of our players can’t make the game, so unless the coach and his son arrive, this is it.
Boo’s in as goalie for the first quarter. I’m handling the stress of it all quite well. I repeat to myself what I’ve been telling Boo all day: Even if they lose this game, they have had a winning season. The Yellow Jackets score first. Boo gets some amazing saves! Without concern for life, limb or face, he dives on top of the ball, covering it with his whole body. The crowd erupts with "Booooo! Booooo!" I’ve often wondered if the opposing teams realize were not really Boo’ing him, LOL! The game continues, Boo switches out to "attacker" for the next few quarters. The other team scores, our team scores again. Halfway through the game, our coach’s wife shows up with their son. Coach is still on his way down from Bethesda, but at least we have an extra player.
It’s getting darker and colder by the second. Both teams are playing hard. With only one player to substitute in, our team is tiring. As our undefeated season hinges on this, the last quarter of the last game of the season, time begins to slow down. Because you see, if you are on the Volcano team, you think the game is tied 2-2. When Boo was goalie, he made a save and kicked the ball. Before it crossed the line of the goalie box, before he had a chance to even move, the other team kicked the ball into the net. The ref had a long discussion with both assistant coaches (our neighbor, the other head coach, was stuck at the Pentagon) that the ball must leave the goalie box before it can be kicked. The Volcano assistant coach is…well, let’s just say he’s intense. He walked back to the parents and said, "It counted!!" I won’t say he was nasty about it, but he was far from pleasant. We’re not even really keeping score. So you see, as the final minutes of the game dragged on, if the Volcanos score, they will claim a 3-2 victory. If the Yellow Jackets can hold them, at worst, it’s a tie. At best, it’s an outright win.
I turned to another mom and asked her how much time could possibly be left. Maybe they can call it because they are now playing in the dark and it’s so cold that half the players are actually wearing hats. By this time, our head coach has arrived.
Then it happened. It was like a scene out of the movies. Exhausted, cold players are giving it everything they can. No team has a clear advantage. It all comes down to this. And we hear it, the most beautiful sound ever. Cutting through the cheers, high and clear – wheeee ohwheee ohwheee! The ref blows the whistle signalling the end of the game! The Yellow Jackets have done it! No matter how you count the score of the last game, they remain Undefeated!
The fatigue, the cold, are all forgotten as we party like it’s 1999. Parents rush to the field to form the victory arch. Happy players from both sides rush through. The Yellow Jackets and their parents are reluctant to leave the field. It’s been a great season. The team played their hearts out. We’re all friends now. We all wish the season could have been a little longer, because we were just getting good! We are all amazed that every player on our team has improved and that they were really learning to play as a team. The days of "beehive" soccer are over. Sure, they still swarm the ball a bit, but they are learning to play positions, get open and pass the ball. A couple more weeks would really have seen some improvement.
Next Wednesday, our team’s practice field will be empty. But you’ll find us at the bowling alley across the street – toasting to the Undefeated Yellow Jackets of 2006!