• December 22, 2014

Facing a new foe

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Posted: Friday, February 15, 2013 4:30 am

“There is no such thing as unmixed evil. A man who loses his money gains, at least, experience, and sometimes something better.” — Benjamin Disraeli, “The Young Duke”

The look of indignation radiated from Jared Cruddas’ face.

“20-1-1.”

As the Harker Heights boys soccer coach walked off the Ellison soccer field last Friday, he did so for the first time ever in defeat.

Cruddas knew the team’s record against Ellison by heart: 20-0-1, including a string of 18 consecutive wins, entering the game.

In prior years, it was a source of pride. “They’ve still never beaten us,” often were the first words out of his mouth following a game.

Cruddas, who also played for the Knights when the school first opened in 2000, never knew what it was like to lose to Ellison. Outside of a tie in 2003, it was Ellison who always seemed to come up on the short end of the stick — until last week.

Thanks to two massive defensive breakdowns inside Heights’ own goalie box, the Eagles pulled out a 4-2 victory last Friday with an assist going to the two own-goals that ultimately made the difference.

Cruddas, indignation aside, wasn’t too broken up about the loss: “Losses are going to come, wins are going to come, we just need to fix us.”

But you could tell he was seething inside.

A proud Heights alumnus and now head soccer coach, Cruddas has always valued his program’s tradition.

Records, despite what many coaches may say, mean everything in sports. They define greatness and help to ultimately and definitively separate the winners from the losers.

Longtime Ellison head coach Niles Dunnells, who was coaching at Ellison for several years before Harker Heights ever opened its doors, knew what the actual win-loss record was against the Knights. Dunnells only knew he’d never won before.

But Cruddas knew each game, each score. After the loss, he immediately went to his computer to look them up again. Players admitted they went into the game overconfident and believed it would just be another Knights victory over the Eagles — No. 21.

“I wasn’t worried about Ellison coming in — everybody’s been talking about how good they are — I still think we’re better,” Cruddas said. “And we’ll see them again at our place.”

Harker Heights has made the playoffs three of the last four seasons, including the last two straight.

But after Friday’s loss, it’s clear that if Heights wants to make it three straight, they’re going to have to go through Ellison to do it.

The Knights get their chance to start another streak March 3 at home.

Until then, that first “1” is going to stand as a reminder of what used to be.

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