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More than a Game

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photographed by J. Lockett

It has been over a week since it came to an abrupt ending, leaving a feeling of emptiness inside for many. For others, it is as if reality has not kicked in yet—soccer season is over.

While many people are aware that the Channelview Falcons boys’ soccer team completed a record-setting season only to fall one penalty kick short of the state tournament, very few actually have a sense of what they really accomplished.

This season seems to have served a bigger purpose. One meant to bring a group of young men together and unite them as a family, linked by an unbreakable bond. That bond created a family, who will forever be linked to one another—all because of soccer.

“We were really a family, Noe Estrada, senior defensive midfielder, said. “We were really together. We don’t see each other as teammates, we see each other more as brothers. We always tell each other I love you because we really do love each other and will always be there for one another. I think that made a really big difference on the field too.”

Estrada credits last season’s third-round loss in the playoffs as the moment of clarity when the team realized that this was about more than just soccer.

“We saw it last season,” Estrada said. “We were separated from Lalo, Raul and other teammates…and that’s when I realized that we are not going to be together for that long.”

Noe’s younger brother, Henry Estrada, forward, experienced a remarkable season scoring 29 goals and setting a new school record. Henry immediately expressed his gratitude for his teammates and unselfishly credits them for his success.

“All those goals I scored this season, I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Henry said. “Without them, I would not have this many goals. Every practice they would help me. Plus, they are always looking for me…they have faith in me. Them depending on me really motivated me and made me give everything I had.”

Henry also acknowledged just how special the bond was between the team.

“It was amazing,” Henry said. “We were a family on and off the field. I always told others that we don’t battle as a team, we battle as a family…as brothers. It is a great feeling playing with every single one of them.”

photographed by J. Lockett

Head coach Carlos Galuppo inside the huddle before a playoff game against Hastings High School.

Head coach Carlos Galuppo refers to, senior midfielder and captain,

Emilio Rivera as sort of the glue that holds the team together.

“You mention a guy in Emilio, who maybe wasn’t the most skillful player,” Galuppo said. “But he was one of the best team players I’ve ever seen. He was always there for the guys and always motivating them. Moving on without him is definitely going to be difficult because he is one of the best role models.”

Rivera describes his experience as a member of the soccer team as, well—indescribable.

“The bond that we have with each other, the way that we play with one another, there are so many happy emotions,” Rivera said. “It’s unexplainable. And it’s the same exact thing off the field. We do everything together. We hang out together…we have fun.”

The season took on a new meaning on the night of January 14, 2017 when former teammate, Edward “Lalo” Cordova was involved in a car accident. Cordova, who spent the previous season as one of the Falcon midfielders, has been in a coma since the night of the accident.

Not only did the team use this as motivation to rally around, it eventually brought them even closer as a unit.

“Lalo, that’s my brother and I miss him,” Rafael Limon, senior fullback, said. “He helped us push through everything…the hard practices because at the end of the day, it was all going to be for him. We knew he did it for his mom, so why couldn’t we do this for him? I’m just waiting for him to wake up so we can tell him how far we made it.”

Coach Galuppo also said just how much Lalo’s situation really shed light on things for the Falcons.

“It brought us even closer together,” Galuppo said. “We realized that you’re not invincible. Anything can happen to you at any second. You see one of the best people I’ve ever met in my life at one of the games on a Friday night, then the following day, he’s not there anymore—he’s still in a coma. I think they realized that they had to appreciate each other every second because we’re not sure when someone is going to leave us.”

After a while, it seemed as if the team began to understand that it was bigger than soccer and wins and losses. It was about establishing a legacy as well as a culture for the program—a rare mindset for most teenagers.

“I always felt the point of playing was to leave the program in a better state than it was when I got here,” Noe said. “And I felt like I did that. I came in my freshman year never thinking I was going to do this. I always asked myself, ‘why can’t we be like North Shore, Deer Park… all those big schools, the powerhouses?’ I always wanted for us to be known, for people to say that about Channelview. I feel like we accomplished that this season. That’s what I think it means to leave a mark.”

So while the Falcons may not have reached their ultimate goal in winning a state championship, these young men can truly say they have accomplished something more important.

They have formed a family that will continue to “win”, in ways unimaginable, for years to come.

Photographed by J. Lockett

The CHS varsity soccer team praying before the game begins.

 

 

 

 

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