JACKSONVILLE — Three years ago, Michael Goos was offered a job at Salado High School teaching world geography.
“It was a great community and I really wanted the job,” said Goos, now age 35. “I dotted all my I’s and crossed all my T’s.”
Goos grew up near Houston and played his collegiate soccer at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor from 1998-2001.
“So I was familiar with Salado and what a nice area it is,” Goos said.
But Salado High School didn’t have a soccer program. Salado has less than 500 students. Most Texas schools the size of Salado don’t play soccer.
Never mind all that.
Goos decided to start a soccer program knowing full well Salado, a 2A school, would have to compete against 4A schools — which typically have around 1,500 students, sometimes over 2,000.
That aside, most new programs are early-season schedule fillers for established, highly talented schools anxious to stockpile wins and pad some stats.
“Yes, most new programs have a few years where you’re just continuously getting killed in your games,” Goos said.
But that’s not what happened.
Instead, Salado finished second in District 34-4A in its inaugural season, 2012. The Eagles won a playoff contest and advanced to the Region III-4A area championship game.
They did that all again in 2013.
This year, the Eagles won the district title, shut out their first- round postseason foe Mexia 2-0 on Tuesday and again advanced to the area title game.
Salado ran into a tough foe Friday night. The Jacksonville Indians are exceptionally talented, with a D-1 signee, Martin Melchor, who had three assists and a goal in the first half.
So after Friday’s 7-1 loss, Salado’s season is over.
But the memories aren’t.
“I will never forget what this group of 11 seniors did here,” Goos said. “Nine of them played together as sophomores and, right from the start, they worked their butts off.”
Goos put some rules in place in 2012. Some formal, like all coaches do. And another rule, more informal, but certainly important.
That was the rule.
“No excuses was what I wanted,” Goos said. “I never wanted our kids to say, ‘Well, we’re a 2A school facing a 4A school, and that’s why we lost.’ I told them we never needed to do that. We wanted to be a program where we don’t make excuses.”
And they don’t.
On Friday at noon, 18 Salado players boarded a bus for Jacksonville. After one stop for lunch, they arrived at 5:30. That’s a long, long bus ride.
Then they faced a nearly four-hour delay due to bursts of lightning.
During the game itself, the stadium lights blew, causing another 30-minute delay.
And the fact is the Eagles were facing a school with nearly three times the enrollment of Salado’s.
Postgame, not one Eagle player would allow an excuse for the loss.
Long bus ride?
No problem, we’ve been on them before.
The four-hour delay?
“That’s no excuse; both teams had to endure that,” said Eagle senior Chase Crenwelge.
“I’m glad none of our players made any excuses tonight,” Goos said. “That’s not us. That’s not what our program is about.”
What this program is about is friendships, fun, winning and, according to the players, great coaching.
Postgame, Goos watched with delight when he saw his players slapping each other, hugging each other and giving kudos to each other on three great years.
“It’s all very interesting what happened here,” said Tristan Bragg, Salado’s top scorer and one of nine current seniors who played the past three years for Goos. “When Coach Goos came here, he had no idea what he was getting with us. When he first came here, he wasn’t expecting much. And we had no idea what kind of a coach we were getting.
“Well, fortunately, we got a great coach who knew what he was doing and he immediately thought we were good players. And so these past three years have been great.”
On Friday, on Jacksonville’s home field, the Salado players and many of their parents stayed well over an hour after the game. It seemed liked the kids simply did not want to take off their jerseys. They continued with some celebratory banter. Hey, three area title game appearances in a row is one heck of an achievement for any program.
And soaking it all in was Goos.
“These guys are all brothers,” he said. “They sure care a lot about each other, and that’s what’s so special about this group. I’m very, very proud of them.”
Before leaving the field, Bragg said, “Coach Goos has done so much for us as players, he made us better. He’s gotten colleges interested in us. He deserves a lot of credit. We definitely wish we could have repaid him by winning tonight. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to repay him.”
Oh, you did, Tristan. You did. You and your teammates repaid Coach Goos just fine.