Scarborough soccer squads fight through obstacles to reach playoffs

Scarborough High School soccer player Roger Oyuela dribbles the ball during a game earlier this year. He and the Spartans won the District 23-4A championship and are scheduled to face Stafford in Class 4A bi-district playoffs at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Delmar Stadium. (Contributed photo)

Scarborough High School boys soccer coach Brandon Williams knows the challenges that are presented to his players both on and off the pitch, even under normal circumstances.

And given that the 2021 season presented pandemic-induced obstacles as well, he said the Spartans' successful season is that much sweeter.

“A lot of these kids are coming from economically challenged backgrounds, where COVID really hit them financially – that was along with demanding schoolwork in the new (remote learning) environment,” he said. "Then on top of (that and everything else), athletics was extremely challenging for a lot of my players."

Despite that, however, the Spartans entered Thursday’s Class 4A bi-district playoff matchup against Stafford on a high note. They are coming off the program’s first regular-season district championship since 2015. Williams, who is in his fourth season at the helm, had made the playoffs each of the previous two seasons, and finished second in the district multiple times before this season’s triumph.

“That was a big reward for all the hard work and dedication they’ve given this season,” he said.

The Scarborough girls team has had a fruitful season as well as was scheduled to play Columbia at 5:30 p.m. Friday at Bay City High School in its own Class 4A bi-district playoff.

Many of the boys team’s seniors, Williams said, have made the journey alongside him over the last four years as he tries to build the Spartans into a state contender. And the groundwork certainly appears to have paid off as the Spartans went 13-0-1 in the regular season to clinch the long-awaited District 23-4A title.

“We’ve been on the cusp of doing great things (for years), and this year we were finally able to win,” he said.

Like many programs, however, Scarborough's season was not without its obstacles - such as the aformentioned financial challenges or the virus forcing Houston ISD to utilize remote learning for a period at the beginning of the school year.

"A lot of challenges for high school sports around here is just getting those kids eligible to play," Williams said. "We could have the best players and the best tactics, but if they’re not doing what they need to do in the classroom then it doesn’t matter."

Williams wasn’t alone within the Scarborough soccer program in battling through issues related to the coronavirus' impact. The Lady Spartans and fourth-year head coach Edward Bradley had multiple players come down with COVID-19 during the course of the season, forcing them to play shorthanded at times.

But even though the Lady Spartans fell short of a sixth straight district championship, Bradley said the bar has still been set to reach those heights again. He also said this season has epitomized the reason future success remains possible.

“This has been one of the most tumultuous years I’ve had coaching. … It shows why this program had been champions before. They just have so much heart and a lot of pride,” he said of a regular season that saw his team finish 8-2-3 overall and 8-1-3 in 23-4A. “We played the last two games (in the regular season) short on players – but the girls still wanted to go out there, represent the school and try to win those games.”

Both coaches were highly anticipating their first-round playoff games, because they said the best is yet to come.

“They’ve always been a really talented bunch,” Williams said of his team’s seven seniors. “They’ve worked well throughout the years and grown together.”

Bradley and the Lady Spartans are looking to earn a fourth straight area-round berth.

“There’s no excuses on our part – that’s always been our mindset, despite everything. We showed why we’ve been a championship-level team in this district,” Bradley said. “We’re finally healthy now – that’s really the big thing for us. I like our chances.”

Soccer Playoff Schedule

Boys

Thursday

Class 4A bi-district

Scarborough vs. Stafford, 5:30 p.m., Delmar Stadium

Class 5A bi-district

Waltrip at Richmond Foster, 7:30 p.m.

Girls

Thursday

Class 4A bi-district

Washington vs. Sweeny, 7:30 p.m., Barnett Stadium

Friday

Class 4A bi-district

Scarborough vs. Columbia, 5:30 p.m., Bay City HS

Class 5A bi-district

Waltrip vs. Angleton, 7 p.m., Delmar Stadium

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