By Dave Ruthenberg, Sports Editor
Enid News and Eagle
As spring sports season begins to wind down, we would be remiss not to give some special recognition to the Enid High School Plainsmen soccer squad that just completed its 2013 campaign.
To be truthful, it has not necessarily been a banner year for EHS team sports over the past several months. That is not to say the kids and coaches have not given their best efforts, but the results haven’t necessarily shown up in the win column as often as folks would like. And the playoffs have been mostly out of reach.
The Plainsmen soccer team seemed to be heading down a similar route at one point in the season.
But EHS turned things around with four straight wins to close the season with an 8-5 record and a top-10 ranking.
The Plainsmen caught everyone’s attention with a dramatic 4-3 upset over top-ranked Jenks during their season-ending surge. While it certainly was noticed and written about in these pages, imagine the reaction had the football team pulled such a stunner.
The upset certainly was noticed among the soccer community though, and while maybe not as big of news as a football win over the hated Trojans would have been, it was an upset of similar proportions. And it couldn’t have happened to a nicer, harder working group of athletes and coaches.
The Plainsmen’s late season winning streak landed them in fourth-place in District 6A-4 and in a playoff match at Owasso.
Unfortunately, Enid couldn’t quite get past the Rams Tuesday night in their first-round playoff contest, falling 1-0 after playing the Rams to a draw through regulation and two overtimes before succumbing 3-0 in penalty kicks in the shootout.
It was a heartbreaking loss and one that eerily mirrored the last loss EHS soccer suffered in its most recent previous playoff appearance, a 1-0 setback at Owasso in 2011, also in the first round.
But the loss Tuesday was nothing to hang their heads about. They were on the road facing a team that had shutout six of its eight regular-season opponents, allowing only two goals all year in going 8-0. The Plainsmen gave the No. 6 Rams everything they could handle. The loss also was a little more disappointing as a win would have seen Enid hosting a second-round playoff game on Friday. But it wasn’t meant to be.
But the Plainsmen set the foundation for some nice expectations for next season with some key players hopefully returning next season, including goalkeeper Victor Hernandez and forwards Armando Gutierrez and Felix Mora.
To be sure, it was an especially tough loss for the seniors such as leading scorer Edgar Delgadillo and Oscar Pena, who were looking to avenge that 2011 playoff loss. But they should take heart in knowing they laid a nice future groundwork, signaling EHS soccer has come of age.
Of course the person pulling it all together is head coach Craig Liddell, who also coaches the Pacers. Liddell has shown over the years he knows how to relate to his players and the players treat him with the utmost respect in return. And more times than not, he has put winners both on the field and off.
He also, with his Scottish accent, obvious enthusiasm for the game and his consistently upbeat manner, has an infectious way of making all those around him into soccer fans.
So, congratulations to the Plainsmen and here’s to Liddell’s ability to connect with the players, fans and even some jaded sportswriters. Enid is lucky to have him. As Liddell would say, “Cheers.”
Ruthenberg is sports editor at the News & Eagle. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.