James Wilson and H. Keith Buras were unsure about playing a full 15-game schedule when they agreed to co-coach the Tara High School boys soccer team about six months ago.
“That is what makes this story so special,” Wilson said. “We had no idea what to expect. Last year the team played four games.
“We had no home field, no goals, no uniforms, no soccer balls or any other gear in August. And now, we’re hosting a playoff game at our school. It’s amazing.”
The 15th-seeded Trojans (13-3-2) host No. 18 Morris Jeff (10-7-2) at 3 p.m. Friday for a Division III first-round contest. Led by five seniors, Tara has come long way since finishing 2-2 a year ago — and from three years ago, when the seniors were freshmen.
Wilson serves as the school’s dean of students. He coached the Trojans to the playoffs in 2019-20 when it beat Parkway 3-1.
Soon the pandemic hit. A non-COVID related illness kept Wilson off the sideline the past two seasons. The Trojans struggled to field a team.
However, with the combination of Wilson and Buras, those seniors and donations of about $6,000 got the ball rolling.
“Before, we always played at one of the BREC fields,” Wilson said. “The support from the community allowed us to get goals, soccer balls, uniforms and socks. It is a blessing.
“We are so excited not just to be in the playoffs, but also to play on our field. Of course, we have no lights. But playing at 3 o’clock is just fine with us.”
The seniors — Jonathan Velasquez, Jossimar Rojas, Axero Salazar, Anderson Mejia and Luis Acosta — were part of Wilson’s 2020 team and are the driving force behind this one. Acosta leads the Trojans with 19 goals and has three hat tricks.
“It’s all about and for these seniors,” Buras said. “They stayed. They made this possible. Those guys deserve every good thing happening for us.”
Though the vibe was positive and a 15-game schedule required for playoff eligibility was in place, there was uncertainty initially.
But a 2-1 loss to to nearby rival Belaire a little more than a month ago was a confidence-builder and a steppingstone to the postseason.
Tara and Morris Jeff have a few common opponents, which provides a bit of a pregame gauge.
“From what we can tell, Morris Jeff is like us,” Wilson said. “They’re scrappy and they have speed. Looks like a good matchup.”