Yes. The Raptors have put themselves in a position to play for a state title. Along the way, supporters of this team have been treated to some really special moments. But, as Jake Hill's mom, Bridget, said last night, "it's amazing what you can accomplish when you don't think of yourself." More than a month ago, the Levine's found out Zach's Mom Sheila was diagnosed with breast cancer. Zach, a 2 year member of the team, decided to take some time away and concentrate on his Mom. The team decided to let Mrs. Levine know, in word and deed, they would/will always be thinking about her by wearing pink armbands with her name on them. Last night, while Mrs. Levine recovered from her latest round of treatment, Scott Levine was at the game, as loud as all of us, rooting on the Raptors. Scott, a parent of a two sport athlete in Zach, understands the game better than most. Zach won a state title earlier this year with the Ravenwood hockey team. He's watched his son play soccer in the northeast, Colorado, and now Brentwood. Having him there to represent his wife last night was so cool on a bunch of levels and it has meant a ton to the boys. While a 1:30pm weekday championship game-time has its challenges for many Raptor supporters, regardless, the Raptors keep playing for something bigger than themselves. They play for Mrs. Levine and they play for each other now more than ever. So, here we are. We have a chance. Let's take a look at how we got here...player by player, coach by coach (and manager). Seniors Danny Barker - Injured much of the season, Danny has played when he can but provided important contributions to the team in other ways. Apparently he supplied the speaker for the bus ride home last night! Rolando Barker - His spark, at key times, offensively has helped Ravenwood either get momentum or help them keep it. Dalton Bickel - For all the timely and cool goals he's scored this season (icing goal on Dad's birthday against Independence as an example), No bigger goal was the 5th and deciding PK against Dobyn's Bennett. Dalton has battled to get his opportunities. This year he got his and took full advantage of it. Jesse Boone - Jesse didn't play last year. His fellow seniors convinced him to play and his presence and play have both been difference makers. His play in the semi-final, against Houston, was particularly inspiring to the team. Pedro Cobo - Co-defensive player of the year and one of our 2 defensive leaders, Pedro has a touch on the ball that is second to none. His sliding tackles are something, I think, people now look forward to. I know I see him coming at a player and hope for one of them. Not only can he dispossess the player cleanly, he gets up and turns the play offensive. The athletic ability in that play says a lot about how talented a soccer player he is. Grayson Hetherington - His speed and determination in the offensive end will probably never be forgotten. He has run down every player he's faced. I certainly wouldn't want to be a defensive player trying to get away from Grayson. Oh Yeah, he's offensive player of the year with 10 goals too. Jake Hill - Team MVP, he got injured early and later in the year but has battled his way through them. He has arguably scored some of the biggest goals in Raptor history...most of them when it's counted most. Zach Levine - Played minutes for the Raptors until he stepped away to be with his mom. If there's a player and family whose had a bigger motivational impact on this team, I don't know who it's been. TJ Munzel - TJ moved from Texas 2 years ago and, its no coincidence the team has gone on two deep state runs as a result. Great technical skill and, in the last 2 games, has battled a severe stomach flu that has forced him to play under less than ideal circumstances. He's scored some big goals for this team too. Juniors Chris Barker - His pace is ridiculous. He's as fast and quick as any player we've seen on a Ravenwood team...ever. He's got 8 goals, none bigger than the game winner against Hendersonville to send us into the state tournament. He's counted on to control his side of the field. He's done that...and much more. Ben Barone - 2 goals this year and has been called on as a striker for the Raptors. Like several of his junior buddies, has a great touch on the ball, can make the good pass, as well as finish. Noah Conlon - Solid team contributor who has come in and made a difference. He's been asked to play a couple different positions during the year and has done so well. Rafael Jarmillo - Logged big minutes early in the year, helping the Raptors mainly in the mid-field. Has two goals this year and his touch on the ball is really good. Ben Knickerbocker - Has been a solid contributor to the team all year. A talented player who will take what he's seeing and learning this year and no doubt apply it for next year...hopefully as a player, with state championship experience! Spencer Layland - Ravenwood supporters who have watched Spencer this year know what a story he's been. He got his opportunity early in the year at a Gatlinburg tournament and has never looked back. During the Houston game, he made several big plays and, along with this back-line teammates held off a potent Houston team. A team that had scored over 60 goals. They were defending state champs. They had one loss. Wow. Baker Lockhart - Co-defensive player of the year and our other defensive leader. Baker has stepped up game after game to keep the opponent from advancing into threatening territory. Lately he's added offensive punch by taking most of the throw-ins which, most times, find their way into the other team's 18 yard box. his grit has helped the back-line play with fire and poise. He's executed on coach Jose's instructions and, as a result, here we are. Jim Roebuck - He has logged big minutes and helped Ravenwood out of many a jam. Usually, he's called on to help settle the team down defensively and to deliver on throw-ins. Blake Sams - He's played his best soccer when it's counted most. His play since district has been MVP worthy. He never comes off the field. He's expected and counted on to control the middle every game. Early in the season, coach Jose changed formations and took Jake out of the middle and moved him up top with Grayson. Since then it's been just Blake and TJ. Blake has delivered...big time. Sophomores Jack Hyatt - Seriously? PK save against Dobyn's Bennett? What felt like 400 saves against Houston? Need we say more? Last year, the day after we lost against Houston, we felt bad. Not only because we lost, but we knew we were losing District defensive player of the year Ryan James. How could we replace RJ? Then Jack showed up...and in some very big spots. Joe Roebuck - A very talented player who was a big part of last years team and is a big part of this years team. He has come in recently and provided much needed spark to the Raptor offense. The minutes he logged against Houston will be remembered. His pace and determination were sorely needed at that time. Freshman Dylan Thomas - Pretty cool to see a freshman playing well on the back-line and now, with sweet lefty Cobo moving to his natural position, time at center back. But, regardless of his age, anyone who can spot talent knows this young man is for real. Big proof that this team isn't about only playing older players. Coach Jose plays the best players. Dylan has played every game. That's the only proof you need. Coaches Jose Londono - Several years ago, he agreed to come work with a program that hadn't seen much success. He now has them consistently in the state tournament. This year, he battled expectations, long relationships with players, high school attitudes, and other challenges to get to a rematch with Houston. He was Bobby Fischer last night. Fischer, the greatest chess player of all time, couldn't have done better. It was a masterful job. Fischer moved pieces of clay or wood around a board. Londono had to convince 19 teenagers to stick to a plan for 80 minutes against Houston. It's not even close. Juan Hernandez - First year coach who played the game at a high level and also has solid coaching experience. Almost certain he won a state championship or two. He's come in and been a perfect complement to Jose. The boys love him and respect him. Tim Gillian - Ravenwood teacher who's also coached at the middle school level. He's come in this year and been the perfect assistant for this team. His positive personality is exactly what the team needed at certain times and his laugh will make you laugh. Manager Hally Lockhart - For the second straight year, Hally has grinded through the spring of high school and into the summer making sure the Raptors are where they're supposed to be. She does it with a smile and we could not be more thankful. Her dedication to the Raptor soccer program is incredible...and she's volunteered to do it again next year?!
So here we are. We have a chance. We have a chance to say...we're state champions. While there will be other Raptor soccer teams to come along and win a soccer championship at Ravenwood, we can be the FIRST. No one will ever be able to take that away. But, Bearden isn't going to give it to us either. We have a chance to make history. Very few get this chance. Our opponent will be hoping to make their own history. There will be plenty of people supporting the Raptors on Friday. There are also those who don't think the Raptors can pull this thing off. There have been plenty who didn't think we'd get this far. But, sometimes in life, you'll have the opportunity to prove people right AND prove people wrong at the very same time. This is one of those glorious opportunities. Here's what we know for sure. Friday, the boys will play to honor and support Mrs. Levine (Side note: Scott Levine says the prognosis for his wife is positive. We'll continue to pray for her full recovery). They'll listen to their coach and execute the game plan...just like they did against Houston. They'll play for each other. They'll make their parents and Raptor supporters proud. The only question that remains is this...can the Raptors go from great to Champions? We'll find out Friday afternoon. Come along for the ride. The fun starts at 1:30.