A bright future

By Brandon Bush

 

Welcome to my last column of the year on Putnam County soccer.

Honestly, I’m just glad I can finally write one without running the risk of it being outdated by the time the War Eagles play another game. As you’re probably aware, Putnam played against Benedictine Military School last Friday for the GHSA Class AA state championship.

Unfortunately for us all, the Cadets defeated the War Eagles, 7-0, to win state as Putnam finished with an 18-2-1 record and as the state runner-up this season. Although there is a lot to be proud of this season, I know it’s probably a hard pill to swallow to get so close yet still be so far away.

I’ve never had the pleasure of being on a sports team that has made it to a state championship game (I don’t think I’ve even been on a team that has made it past the first round of playoffs). For this reason, I’m afraid I have no experience in how to deal with a loss in such a game that is so hard to reach.

However, there is something important to be taken away from all this. I’ve mentioned it in both columns and stories, but the age of this War Eagle team is worth highlighting on its own.

Putnam only had four seniors this year and, of those four, only one was a constant member of the starting lineup – Deon Hill. After the championship game, Putnam soccer coach Mark Silva said that 10 starters would be returning to the team next season.

Earlier this season, after watching the game with Oglethorpe that Putnam won on a last-second goal by Brenton Nelson, I found out that most of the team was underclassmen. I’ve kept that fact in mind all season while watching this team fight its way to 18 wins and it made the state title appearance all the more impressive.

Diego Sanchez, a freshman, scored an astounding 35 goals this season – eclipsing the previous freshman record of 18. Sanchez was sometimes the only Eagle to find the net in several games this season and his presence on this team has been a difference maker in more than a few close games.

If a freshman like Sanchez can have a year like that despite his age, imagine how the team as a whole will look if the rest of the talented young members of this team – and there were many – continue to find success in the next few years.

I know age isn’t always a factor when it comes to talent, but the War Eagles made it to state with a young team. If this team jells together for another year or so and the young players can develop their skills further, it could be the foundation for Putnam County to be a powerhouse on the soccer field for years to come.

That’s not even accounting for the potential new talent coming into the fold as well as current players improving their skills even more. Benedictine is, apparently, moving to Class AAA next year, meaning that the door is open for Putnam to ascend from being the second-best team in Class AA to the first.

Now that we’ve arrived at the end of the season, many will feel disappointed that the War Eagles came so close and fell. However, given the amount of talent this team will still retain for years to come, this could only be the beginning of War Eagle soccer taking trips to the state finals every May.

I’m glad that I got to follow a team all the way to the championship this year. Just as it’s a rare experience to reach the big game, it’s also a rare experience to watch a team get there. It’s been a wild ride for the Eagles this season and I’m glad I got to be part of it.

Congratulations on a great season, Putnam County. I’m already looking forward to another great one next year.

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