Despite loss at state, final season still a success for seniors

Before packing up to leave the field, senior Parker Ryan high fives the classmates and fans that turned out to watch the boys in the 5A State Championship Soccer game.

Arleigh Doehring, Staff Writer

On a stage few ever reach, coach Ryan Searle was proud. 

He knew he’d miss the camaraderie, the friendship and everything else his senior class brought to the program. But after his team lost 3-2 to perennial power Frisco Wakeland in the state championship game, Searle focused on his players’ legacy instead of the loss.

“It’s a miracle season, something you write in history,” Searle said. “This is something people will recognize. We’ve been here, and we achieved something.”

It was the program’s first trip to state since 2011 and their first appearance in the championship game since 2010. After going 21-0 a year ago and graduating 15 seniors, the Panthers (26-3-2) were determined to finish what the Class of 2020 started.

“This is an experience I’ll carry with me forever,” senior co-captain Brandon Rogers said. “I’m just glad we can say we fought to the end.”

In the first half of the state title game, the Panthers were down 1-0. At halftime, Searle sent a clear message: “Keep in the game. We are not out of it yet. If we keep fighting, we will win.”

In the second half, Guerra scored the Panthers’ first goal to tie the game at 1-1. Wakeland answered quickly with two goals of their own, giving them a lead Kingwood Park couldn’t overcome.

“It wasn’t our best game,” senior forward Gage Guerra said. “We weren’t playing as hard as the other team. We slowly started to come back. Since we started off slow, it bit us in the butt towards the end.”

Guerra scored both of the Panthers’ goals in the second half, but Wakeland walked away with their fourth title in team history.  

“They didn’t have any bad kids anywhere, they were all good,” senior co-captain Jace Banning said. “The goalie was great.”

Five of the Panthers’ nine seniors were named to the state soccer championship all-tournament team, including Guerra, Rogers, Parker Ryan, Nathan Jimerson and Jesus Cervantes. 

As the seniors capped their high school careers in the title game, they hope next year’s juniors keep the tradition of winning going.

“There’s more than one person on a team that can make a difference,” Cervantes said. “Hopefully these juniors will step up like what me, Nathan, Gage and Jace did and put goals in the back of the net.”

Cervantes, Jimerson, Guerra and Banning each scored more than 27 goals and accounted for 115 of the team’s 135 goals this season. Guerra, a West Point commit, led the squad with 32 goals – including five in the state tournament.

“I hope I have left the impact that you can’t ever give up,” Guerra said. “No matter when you’re down, no matter when you’re losing by three, you can still win and keep going. 

“I think it’s shown by all of the comebacks we have made this year, just never give up.”