Boys Soccer Prepares for Playoffs


Seth Miller

Bryan Ukeje, 12, dribbles the soccer ball down the field against Burleson.

Freshman Mateo Murrillo kicks the ball downfield to teammate senior Bryan Ukeje. Before the ball can reach the ground, Ukeje jumps and strikes the ball with his head. The ball takes a path directly to the net. The Crowley goalkeeper misses the ball as it swooshes in the back of the net. The team goes up 2-1 with the goal by Ukeje.

The boys soccer team wrapped up the regular season on Mar. 12 with a 2-1 victory over Crowley. The team finished 15-4-1 with a 10-3-1 record in district which was good enough to earn them a playoff berth for the first time in eight years. Soccer Coach Micheal Keel believes success is largely because of the culture change that started last offseason.

“I changed the way we did things and I made everything we do a competition,” Keel said. “We always ended the day on a competition and everything we did was just a little tougher than normal offseasons and that instituted the drive and the fight that our guys have. “

Coach Keel thinks their will to work and strong leadership brought them success.

“It’s not that these guys are more skilled than last year’s team,” Keel said. “They just all pull their own weight, and we have great senior leadership. Bryan Ukeje is one of the best captains I’ve been around in all my career. This team has shown me that when everyone buys in, and the team is player-led not coach-fed – they will have much more success.”

Ukeje, captain and three-year varsity starter, took it upon himself to change the culture surrounding the team.

“My favorite part about this team is and everyone willing to work, we’re selfless. In the offseason we decided to change our culture. In years past, the players were selfish and didn’t put the team first,” Ukeje said. “For me, being a captain I made sure we weren’t going to repeat where we have been for the past few years. And once we had that established, we all worked for a main goal. When everyones working for the same goal then everyone is going to understand you and rally behind your leadership and it makes things easier for me.”

According to Coach Keel, a big difference from this team that sets them apart from others is their maturity and growth as young men and not just soccer players.

“They take ownership of practice and clean the locker room, they do things nobody sees and they’ve shown me that this year is a year of growth for all of them. I’m seeing the young teenage boys are turning into men in front of me,” Keel said. “They’re taking responsibility and showing maturity on the field. It’s not about ‘oh how many goals can I score’ it’s about how can I help my team, and how can I develop into a young man. We have character lessons and it’s not like a
chore for these guys, they’re learning from it and applying it. They’re showing me that what I am doing is important, they’re showing me that character matters and that effort matters.”

Communication is key. At least that is true for Ukeje. Ukeje admits being captain of the team has improved his ability to work well with others.

“Soccer has taught me chemistry, more specifically how to talk to people,” Ukeje said. “I might be able to talk to one of my teammates a certain way but if I try the same approach with someone else it won’t have the same effect so I’ve learned how to communicate efficiently with different people on the team.”

The team will play Fort Worth Southwest in the Bi-District round of the playoffs. The game takes place March 29 at 7 p.m. at Arlington James Martin High School.