“Mistakes are always forgettable, if one has the courage to admit them.” -Bruce Lee
No matter what their background, no matter where they come from or what they've been through, players in Liga HEB have one thing in common: they're all junior high boys. These are the pivotal years of development: the years when mistakes begin to have real and lasting consequences and reputation begins to take root. These are the years when popularity becomes a tangible phenomenon and defending oneself from ridicule becomes a fact of life. And that makes these years the ones in which accountability habits begin to form.
When I was a junior high boy, I developed a natural defensive instinct that still hampers me today. It became, in my mind, intolerable to fail. Making a mistake was admitting imperfection, and doing that was becoming weak and downright impossible to love. If I messed up — missed a shot, failed an assignment, committed a foul, withheld information for my own personal gain, lost my spot on the roster, backed out on a friend, lied to someone — it was anyone's fault but mine. I spent more energy finding reasons to blame someone else than I did acknowledging and working on my shortcomings. I stunted my mental and emotional growth by doing so. More importantly, I selfishly set fire to relationships that could have been my greatest gifts in life.
Soccer is a game of passion, and it's not surprising that players in Liga HEB overflow with it. They get upset when they're benched, they protest calls. They assign blame. It's instinctual at this point to dodge any and all responsibility or failure by deferring it to an unsuspecting target. Which is why it's nice to see Alético Central rising to the top of the league now that they've overcome the dust-up that saw several players dismissed from the squad in Week 1.
They owned their failure, and then they did something about it. Here's how things went down in Week 6…
Atlético Central Down Raiders FC, 4-1
by Steven Jones
Heading into Week 6, there was no matchup more tantalizing than the clash between Raiders and Atlético. Both teams came into the match with a strong resume; the latter on top of the standings and the former the only squad to topple them thus far into the season. That whisper of equality makes the lopsided 4-1 result hung on Raiders a surprise, especially to anyone who didn't catch the action on the pitch.
Raiders opened strong, possessing the ball nicely and pressuring Atlético's sometimes-shaky defense in the first half. The spent a lot more time in their opponent's penalty box than they spent on their own half of the field, but couldn't seem to make anything of their time on the ball. Too much hesitancy in front of the net and a lack of finishing touch when shots were fired left at least a pair of goals on the field; a vacuum that proved inescapable once their defense finally broke down.
Atlético thrives on momentum, often seizing on botched attacks to launch a speedy counter with their talented right winger. Their first goal came on just such a change, with a beautiful ball played across the front of the net and finished by the striker at the far post. A second goal followed shortly, hammered past Raiders' keeper as he deflected an initial shot but couldn't wrangle the rebound. Hurst made things interesting by scoring on a tight cross in the second half, but later surrendered a pair of long-distance strikes to fall by three goals in their most important match of the season. Next week's matches will likely decide who plays in the Final come March 9th, and Atlético is comfortably in the drivers' seat now.
Stallions FC Threaten Early, Collapse 3-1 Against FC Hurst
by Steven Jones
It's been very much a building year for Euless Junior High, with two clubs notching a total of 1 win and 11 goals (8 of which have come in matches against in-school rivals). Stallions came into the game winless and very much the underdog when matched up against one-loss FC Hurst. They surely didn't play like it.
Stallions FC has something to prove this season, and only a few games left in which to prove it. They've vastly improved on a defense that once gave away an average of double digit goals per game and they're beginning to find some swagger and rhythm on the offensive side of the field. After falling into a 1-0 hole, Euless responded with an equalizer on a close-range finish in the keeper's box. Confidence boosted, they began to press the attack and seemed to have Hurst baffled and frustrated at the break.
Rallying after a stern lecture from Coach Adam Bean, however, FC Hurst stormed back on the brute force of their skilled offense once again. A pair of nearly synchronized strikers created dozens of chances in front of the sticks. Ultimately, offering more opportunity in soccer means conceding more goals. Stallions eventually broke under the onslaught, allowing a pair of goals that put Hurst on top, albeit underwhelmingly so. They've got a lot to fix before getting their final shot at Atlético next week.
Spartans FC Handle Real Euless in 4-0 Victory
by Steven Jones, with José Cortes, CJHS
Just one week after a shining bright spot in their season, Real Euless found themselves on the wrong end of a cataclysmic stumble. Spartans FC may be the second-best team at Central Junior High, but they certainly express their dominance against almost everyone else. Euless suffocated under the strength of the blue club's onslaught, finding little space to move the ball on offense and even less respite when trying to stem the tide of shots headed at their over-worked keeper.
This was Spartans' match from start to finish. Real simply didn't have an answer for the athleticism of their opponent and couldn't crack a staunch defense when given the chance. Euless is a team that struggles to find consistent relief in the midfield and rarely gets the ball to its attacking players. They've improved in that regard, and even managed to possess the ball in Spartan territory for much of the game, but ultimately couldn't finish and couldn't stop a potent attack. They desperately need next week's matchup with Stallions FC to workshop their struggle.
Spartans, on the other hand, net themselves another tidy win that just about tops off their Goal Differential, which is climbing rapidly despite having losses hung on them by some of the better teams they've faced. Only time will tell if their defense and rugged play style can make up for an attack that lacks finesse against quality opponents. While it's unlikely that they surpass in-house rival Atlético, they can do their school a favor by knocking both Hurst teams further down the rankings in the final two weeks of play.