It had been a season to forget. With only two wins and 11 losses, the Falcons were an afterthought in terms of playoffs. But for tonight, there was one last chance to play together.
Woodinville coach Nathan Davis, dressed in black on this chilly evening, gazed intensely toward the field. He knew of Newport’s offensive firepower and felt for his team to have any chance, they couldn’t afford to fall behind early.
Over the next couple hours, Newport blew several scoring chances, drawing oohs and ahhs each time from the crowd. The game remained a 0-0 squeaker until only 90 seconds remained in regulation.
That’s when Woodinville’s Ionatan Kuperwajs got into prime position and booted the ball into the net for the game’s only goal.
Time ran out and Falcon players and coaches exalted. Davis hugged five players at once, shouting that he loved them and was proud of them.
After a team meeting at midfield, the players dispersed and Michael Aldridge was intercepted by this reporter.
“It’s nice to get the win,” Aldridge said. “We came together as a team. We played simple. I feel like it’s one of the games where we worked for each other.
“Even though we didn’t make the playoffs, it’s a good note to go out on.”
In a recent interview, coach Davis singled out Aldridge as being a positive and encouraging influence on the entire team.
When told of this, Aldridge smiled. “My thing is just to control what we can control,” he said. “You’re going to have bad refs once in awhile. You’re going to have those unlucky moments when you don’t (get the goal). I think it’s important to try to play simple. Keep your mental game, keep calm. If you do that, I think you can bring other people up. That’s going to help your chances.”
Aldridge was asked to reflect on his senior season.
“This is definitely one of the highest moments,” he said gesturing toward the now empty field. “It’s just nice, winning this last game. I feel like this is the only year that we’ve had a team that is bonded.
“The low point was the game against Eastlake. That was one where everyone was just getting ... on each other. Afterward, we just sat them down and said ‘let’s control what we can control. Let’s focus on us. We’re going to work hard and a reward will come from it.’”
When asked about coach Davis, Aldridge grinned.
“I love him,” he said. “He came here to a bunch of guys he didn’t know in a brand new school. He’s trying to develop a program. And he knows how to play the game. He understands what the game is about. He just knows to do the simple things and develop that team morale.
“Davis is always joking with us,” he said. “But he knows when to do it at the right times. He gets to know a player and then harasses ... them. For me, I was known as ‘Lady Beckham.’ He knows how to get under your skin.”
(This tidbit begged for back story.)
When asked about it, coach Davis said: “Michael loved to talk about hitting the ‘benda,’ which is a shot that bends and lands into the top corner of the goal.
“Michael tried that shot hundreds of times at practice and everyone gave him a hard time about not being able to do it. It reminded me of the movie ‘Bend it like Beckham’ whose star is a girl ... So ‘Lady Beckham’ was born.”)
Before the interview concluded, Aldridge gave his thoughts on three talented sophomores.
“Mesfin Symons has crazy control of the ball,” he said. “When he keeps his head that’s when he’s able to touch it around. He has a lot of potential. His foot skills are what will get him up there. He just needs some calming of himself and he will be a great player.”
“...Tate Nordoy – all he does is work,” he said. “It’s simple and awesome, but he works. Out there on the field between the 20s, all he does is work.”
“...Trevor Dickey faced what I went through,” Aldridge said. “During your sophomore year it’s a whole different game. You get pushed around and lots of guys get frazzled. But he’s keeping up. And that’s something that I’m super impressed with. That he can keep up with other senior players. I think he’s going to do great.”
Aldridge then paused and cast a glance across the empty field before looking back at this reporter.
“I will miss these guys,” he said. “It was one of the most fun teams I’ve been on in terms of kids. It’s just a lot of good kids.”