On a cold, windy Wednesday afternoon at the start of November, the Sequoyah high school soccer team gathered on the lawn outside the Neighborhood Church sanctuary to walk down to Brookside park for their league championship game against Lycée International, or LILA. LILA was a team that the Gryphons had faced twice before: one game resulted in a loss for Sequoyah, the other in a tie. With everyone in uniform, the Gryphons were ready to take on the Lions again.
The large Sequoyah turnout started filing in as the game began. With a starting lineup of players Shanti Moran, Atticus Affleck, Oskar Golwala, Xavier Kelley, Max Dyson, Nico Vallejo, and Ethan Rios, the team’s trusted senior goalie, Sequoyah was fired up and fans were ready to cheer them on. The team had a diverse range of players, and the team was able to use their various skills in a combined effort.
The cold weather after the morning was a nice change of pace after playing several hot, dry games. The team handled the few mud patches the rain contributed to the terrain. The coaches Ben Moran and Gabe Dahl placed down flags to mark a team-only area, which couldn’t be enforced for long with the frenzy of the game.
It was an exciting game to watch. Sequoyah got the first goal, one of multiple by the central striker Shanti Moran ’26. He’s been an extremely valuable player, resulting in 21 goals this season. With him, the other players pushed to try and get a 2-goal lead at the beginning of the game. A strong effort was made, but LILA was a very tough opponent. With that, the game was 1-1 at the half.
The game intensified greatly from there. The players became more aggressive and determined, even more so than at the start, which would be hard to believe if you saw them right before the game. In a moment when it was hard to follow the ball in all of the excitement, Moran booted the ball at the goal from about half-field. Despite his aiming capabilities, from that distance, it might slightly miss the goal. Then, very luckily for the Gryphons, a LILA defender tried to deflect the ball with their back but ended up giving it the trajectory it needed to land in the goal.
Cheers erupted from the fans and celebrations were had briefly on the field, but the game was not over yet. In a previous game, the Gryphons had scored an incredible goal, but the opponent then promptly came back and scored one of their own while the Sequoyah team was resetting. This was not going to happen again. Coaches and the players on the bench clapped and showed their support, but quickly encouraged the players on the field to focus and reset.
Once LILA kicked off after the goal, the clock began to run down again. Very engaged in a powerful defense, the Gryphons attempt to keep the ball in their possession as much as possible. There were approximately 15 minutes left in the game. With most players focused mainly on defense against the very persistent Lions of LILA, there were many tense moments with the defense having to face multiple corner kicks from LILA; this is something they are quite good at, and it is how they scored their goal in the first half of this game.
Those on the sidelines all held their breaths in the last minutes of the game. The coaches constantly checked their sideline clock, waiting for the final whistle to be blown. The final stretch had the players putting in all the energy they had left to protect the goal and their lead. With that, the whistle blew, and all players clumped into a mass of excitement. The game had been won 2-1.
A few weeks before the final game, player Foster Lippsmith had said “[the team is] doing better in some ways [opposed to last year] I would say, but we need to work on keeping our morale up. And that’s something we’d done really well last year, and I think it would have a good effect on our games.” And that’s what the team did: players focused on their spirit and support for one another and went on to win the title!
This was the first championship win for Sequoyah’s high school! The players, coaches, and supporters of the team are all so proud of the Gryphons and their willingness to take advice and improve and work together to win the championship!