Of all the Texoma teams that saw their seasons put on hold, the Sherman boys soccer squad was the one which saw the light at the end of the tunnel near its brightest.
The Bearcats had just two matches remaining when they were set to return from nearly two weeks off due to Spring Break and a large gap in the schedule before entering the playoffs. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit the sports world and four days before Sherman could get back on the field, the University Interscholastic League suspended all athletic competition — first for two weeks and then until May 4.
“Of course they're disappointed. They can't imagine the season being over. It's something you never think about,” Sherman head coach Chico Aleman said. “It's been pretty hard. You can't conclude something you started. You think about these kids and have been around them all four years and can finish on a high note and then 'poof.'”
Sherman doesn't know if it will get a chance to take on an opponent from District 9-5A in the bi-district round of the postseason. At the earliest, it might have to wait another month to find out.
“We went on Spring Break and then never went back to school. The UIL still has not cancelled the seasons for spring sports,” Aleman said. “We have a little glimpse of life maybe. We haven't picked up the uniforms. Ive told them to keep working out and do what you need to be doing.”
It has been a little more than a month since Sherman played its last match, a 1-1 tie against first-place Lovejoy on March 3. If they get a chance to play again then the gap between contests could end up at around two-and-a-half months. The distance is being felt in many ways.
“You get to missing every one of the those kids,” Aleman said. ” I love teaching. I love being with these kids out there.”
It is especially tough because all but four of the 22 Bearcats on the roster were seniors — Gerald Clark, Jacob Gibson, Dylan Roberson, Christian Chinchilla, Elijah Martinez, Jonathan Alvarez, Jose Nandin, Gregorio Quintana, Michael Valencia, Jonathan Manzanales, Lal Thang, Gustavo Rodriguez, Izak Mejia, Josue Gonzalez, Dylan Piper, Javier Gonzalez, Erick Tapia and Fabrizio Avila.
“When we found out that our season was basically over it was really disappointing,” said Josue Gonzalez, a defender. “We had suffered an embarrassing loss in last year's playoffs but this was our year. We worked so hard to be at the top and to have it taken away all of a sudden just hurts.”
Defense was again the calling card for the Bearcats. After posting 10 shutouts last season, the team had 10 shutouts so far this year, including five straight to open the schedule.
Sherman was sitting in third place with a 10-4-5 record and a 5-2-1 mark in 10-5A play going on the road to face second-place McKinney North, which it beat in the first meeting, before ending the regular season by hosting rival Denison. Both of the those matches were going to go a long way towards playoff seeding — the Bearcats were just two points behind North for second and four points back of Lovejoy with an outside shot at the district title. A win in either match would secure no worse than third.
“No matter the outcome, they'd be happy just to go out and finish,” Aleman said. “I'd be thrilled to be out there with them.”
After a one-year absence from the playoffs, the Bearcats returned last spring with a fourth-place finish in the standings but had the bad luck to go up against two-time defending state champion Frisco Wakeland in the first round and were eliminated with a 6-0 loss to finish 7-11-7.
This year they qualified for the postseason in back-to-back years for the first time since 2013-14 and the 13th time in the past 20 seasons.
Sherman was going to try and earn a playoff win for the first time since 2007.
“They were going to the playoffs. We had a pretty decent chance to finish second place,” Aleman said. “Our team was improving every day.”
Under normal circumstances, the region semifinals and finals would have been held this weekend with the state tournament late next week.
When the UIL initially postponed games for two weeks with everything scheduled to return on March 29, the Texas Association of Soccer Coaches and the UIL worked on a revised schedule which would have opened the playoffs on April 14 and pushed back the the state tourney to April 29-May 2.
But just days later the decision was made to wipe out all of April as an option and a new format has not been released as everyone is stuck playing the same game — the waiting game.
“I'm extremely happy and honored to have these kids. You've got all kinds of personalities. They worked so hard and so well together,” Aleman said. “They brought me so many good times. And if we don't get to finish, we still made so many good memories.”