Memories still fresh of Panthers’ last trip to title game

Kingwood Park, who will face Frisco Wakeland in the boys soccer state championship on Saturday, also played Frisco Wakeland in the title game in 2010.


Submitted by Jason Watson

The 2010 boys soccer team. Front Row: Austin Newby, Michel Perri, Taurino Tamayo, Cody Lofgren, Matt Durr, Chase Colvin, Ryan Nolan. Row 2: Isaiah Noreiga, Zane Hancock, Garret Phillips, Ford Lewallen, Tyler Smith, Colby Sias, Jordan Drew, Juan Castillo, Luis Ramos. Back Row: Head coach Ryan Smith, Derek Foster, Zach Gibson, Ryan Coogler, Kyle Trimm, Lance Draper, Jared Gillespie, assistant coach Jason Watson.

Maya Ortiz, Staff Writer

Jason Watson was glued to his television during the boys soccer state semifinal game on Tuesday night. He was constantly texting with Ryan Smith throughout. Watson and Smith were the coaches who last led Kingwood Park to the state championship title game in 2010, and they were intensely following from their homes on Tuesday.

More than once Watson found himself shouting at the TV. 

“That’s the best $10 I have ever spent in my life,” Watson said of the cost to stream the game. “It would have been the best $100 I’ve ever spent in my life. It was absolutely fantastic.”

The Panthers will face Frisco Wakeland in the 5A State Championship game on Saturday at 2 p.m. at Birkelbach Field in Georgetown. 

The state semifinal game brought back memories for Watson, now an assistant golf coach and A/V Productions teacher on campus. In 2010, he helped then-head coach Ryan Smith lead the Panthers to a runner-up finish in the 4A State Championship game to Frisco Wakeland.

The night before the match Smith’s father passed away. In addition to getting the team ready for the biggest game of the year, Smith debated whether or not to go home. 

“There was a whole extra layer of things that we as coaches were dealing with that no one else knew about,” Watson said. “It was a tough time.”

Smith ended up staying, and worked with Watson on a game plan. Their squad was led by  Juan Castillo, who went on to play at SMU. Other Division I talent on the team included: Cody Lofgren (Oral Roberts), Tyler Smith (Brown University) and Isaiah Noriega (Duquesne). 

“[Wakeland] really didn’t have a big answer for Juan,” Watson said. “He was so talented, he played forward, so it was a very physical game and they tried to get really physical with him. They put three guys on him.”

Kingwood Park was able to find the back of the net twice, but so did Wakeland. With a goal from Wakeland with almost two minutes left in the game, the teams went into overtime. The game ultimately ended in a shootout, where players took shots from 35 yards away rather than today’s penalty kicks. With a strong goalkeeper stopping Kingwood Park shots, Wakeland ended up winning the first state title in their program’s history.

“There was a lot of shock, a lot of sadness, a lot of tears from the kids and myself,” Watson said.

Watson will never forget leaving the stadium that night. As the field darkened with the lights being turned off, Watson turned to Smith and said, “You know, we got to play the last high school soccer game in the state of Texas.”

“We felt very proud of our young men,” Watson said, “very privileged to have that opportunity.”

Eleven years have passed but the same two programs will return to the title game this weekend. While the Panthers still seek their first state title, Wakeland seeks their fourth while playing in their fifth-consecutive championship game. 

Little can be compared to the matchup from 2010 since different players, coaches and even playing styles will be on display. With so many changes, Watson also hopes for a different outcome.

“They shouldn’t play for the 2010 or 2011 team,” Watson said. “But personally it would be a little satisfying to get a little revenge, let’s be honest.”