The Enterprise Wildcats made it all the way to the AHSAA State Soccer Championship in 2019 before falling short, and a huge senior class coming into 2020 was motivated to get right back to that game before COVID-19 ended any chance of that.
Before school facilities were closed and spring sports canceled, the Wildcats were 8-3-1 and on a four-game winning streak despite a grueling schedule.
“We started out the season playing as hard of a schedule as you possibly could and got off to a fairly good start,” Enterprise coach Bruce Ladner said. “We lost a game or two but they were close games that I felt like were state championship caliber teams. The team was starting to gel and play better as the season went on.”
Enterprise’s last game before schools were closed ended up being a wild 4-3 come-from-behind win on the road against Montgomery Academy on March 10 that Ladner said spoke volumes about his team.
“We won the game 4-3 after being behind 2-0 and only getting to play with 10 men (in the second half) because one of our guys got (ejected),” Ladner said. “I felt like we were on a roll. I was very confident that we would do well in our area games and be in the playoffs and that we had a real shot at the final four and a state championship.”
Coming into the season Ladner was excited about his 2020 team because of an oddly large senior class.
“I was really excited about this team because we had 12 seniors and that’s a very rare occurrence,” Ladner said. “We had a large senior class that was experienced and that had already been to a final four and a championship game. I felt like we were set up for a real chance to win it all this year.”
Those seniors included Dylan Pablo, Jonathan Denham, Hunter Perry, Clayton Jenison, Sebastian Guerrero, Alex Rodriguez, Edgar Munoz, Sam Mazariegos, Luis Calixtro-Olea, Colby Clark, Daniel Reyes and Anthony Venezia.
“When you have 12 seniors you have a lot of experience and leadership,” Ladner said. “Our captains were Sebastian Guerrero and Sam Mazariegos. Those two guys led us on the field with their play.
“There were games that I would switch formations and ask them to play in formations that they had never even practiced,” Ladner continued. “They had the experience and they just had a will to win and get it done. When you have that kind of leadership on the team the rest of the team follows and you tend to have success.”
Mazariegos – who led EHS with 19 goals and eight assists in 2020 – said that the 2020 Wildcats was different than the previous teams he had played on at EHS.
“Our team had a different drive I guess you could say,” Mazariegos said. “We didn’t play like other teams I’ve been on. I thought we were going to be able to go far (in the playoffs.”
Mazariegos said that the big senior class had a big effect on the play of the team.
“The senior class was big so that it had a big effect on the play style and the chemistry we had because we had played together for so long,” he said.
Mazariegos said the senior class means a lot to him and what stands out most in his mind is how much fun they had together over the years.
“A lot of them are my best friends, so they mean a lot to me,” Mazariegos said. “It’s sad to see a season go by so quickly, especially one as promising as this one was.
“We joked around a lot, I don’t know if Coach Bruce liked that too much sometimes, but we had a lot of fun. The overnight (trips) and all of the goofing around, those are the memories I’ll take with me.”
While losing such a big, talented group of seniors will certainly be a blow to the 2021 Wildcats, Mazariegos said that he thinks they’ll be just fine.
“Even with all of the seniors leaving I think they’ll be okay because they have Coach Bruce Ladner and he is great at what he does,” he said.
Ladner said that he hopes his 2020 seniors rubbed off on a very young group of players that will be returning.
“Our JV team was incredibly young and because I’m losing 12 seniors there will be an awful lot of guys that were on JV this year that will be fighting for a bunch of open spots on varsity,” Ladner said. “I hope they watched our seniors and how they went about things and how they went about practice and preparing for games and just the things that go into being successful. I hope they learned something.”