It’S How You Play The Game

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Here’s the moment that brought us to tears.

It wasn’t that first goal against the odds, when the plucky Longhorns girls soccer team served notice that the top-seeded Tucson Desert Christian Academy had a fight on their hands.

Although that was a great moment, since it was the first round of the state playoffs and all. No one expected much of the Longhorns, up against perhaps the best team in the state with its recruiting program and its year-round training program and its roster crowded with top state scorers.

It wasn’t even the second time the Longhorns came from behind and tied — although, we confess, that was sweet.

Nor are we referring to the unbelievable score in the second overtime period, that once more tied the game that was supposed to be an embarrassing blowout.

Don’t get us wrong.

That was all great.

We were jumping up and down, hollering, doing little sideline jigs.

It was great. Really. The cap to a long season of pain and sweat and dedication. The girls on that team fought back time after time with grit and guts — all done up in their cute Halloween makeup with their pink hair and ghoulish eye shadow. They cheered one another, exchanged hugs and high fives and listened to everything the coach said. They ran on and off the field, with their hair bouncing. Made you happy to be alive and watching them triumph.

But that wasn’t the moment.

No. The moment that demonstrated why we love these girls, this team, this town, came right after they lost.

The game came down to the shootout — the best of five kicks at point-blank range against the lonely goalie. The Tucson shooters drilled four past goalie Kayla Morgan — Payson only slipped two through.

Game over. Season over.

Then it happened.

The whole team had been gathered at mid-field for the kicks.

Kayla turned toward her teammates, shoulders slumped.

They didn’t wait. Every one of them ran to Kayla, desperate to comfort her.

So the season ended in a triumph of teamwork and heart.

They all did it — Kayla with her many blocked goals, Candice Ayers with her two crucial scores — all of them with their sweat and hugs and cheers.

Here’s the rest of team: Tina Breen, Megan Evans, Monica Lamb, Skye McNeeley, Alicia Raecke, Alexia Robles, Talia Schaal, Kaitlyn Armistead, Becca Branstetter, Kayla Francis, Marissa Garcia, K.J. Kepp, Kyndel Lann, Samantha McCormick, Kirsti Walstad, Sara Anderson, Claudia Hernandez, Becca Knauer, Tanya Olsen, Liz Romberger, Blanca Valdez, Natalie Black and Alayna Haupman. Oh yeah — and coach Joe Schmidt.

Great season, girls.

Great ending.

Great character.

And we only hope, that we can behave ourselves in such a way as to make you half as proud of Payson as we are of you right now.

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