The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

April 26, 2013

EHS soccer takes big step

By Bruce Campbell, Staff Writer
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Kudos to Enid’s boys soccer team.

In a school year where the Plainsmen have had losing seasons in football, basketball and baseball, soccer has given the community a rallying point.

The Plainsmen (8-5) are ranked No. 10 in this week’s Class 6A poll and clinched fourth place in District 6A-4 when Union beat Ponca City 2-0 Tuesday.

That might not be the lead story on ESPN, but it is a significant accomplishment for Enid and the development of the sport here.

A reader on the News & Eagle’s Facebook page suggested Enid’s 4-3 victory over Jenks last week might  have been the biggest win in the 20-plus years of the program.

Who is to argue with that?

Jenks is ranked No. 2 in 6A and is a nationally recognized program.

The Trojans clinched the 6A-4 championship Tuesday by beating runner-up Bixby 6-1. In their six district wins, Jenks outscored opponents 32-1.

Jenks might have been distracted by having to go to Enid for a second time (the originally scheduled game was postponed due to a power failure), but the district championship still was in doubt (Bixby had only one loss).

The pressure the Trojans put on at the end of the game showed they were taking the game pretty seriously at the end. This was the same Jenks team which had shut out Enid 3-0 the year before.

And don’t forget Jenks has approximately triple the enrollment of Enid.

That the Plainsmen made the playoffs is a tribute to the players’ hearts and determination. Not to mention an ability to play under pressure.

Even the most ardent Plainsmen fan might have written EHS off when the Big Blue opened the district season with three straight losses — Union, Ponca City and Bixby. A 4-3 record was possible, but who would ever think EHS could beat Jenks?

The 2-1 loss to Ponca City might have been considered a death knell since that would give the Wildcats a tiebreaker over EHS.

But the Plainsmen would win four straight, including three by a one-goal (or shootout) margin — Moore, 2-1; Stillwater, 3-2 and, of course, Jenks, 4-3. Of course, tight games have been the norm for the Plainsmen. Ten of Enid’s 13 games were decided by one goal (or in a shootout). Who says soccer is dull?

That’s a tribute to the coaching of Craig Liddell, who has taken a roster which resembles a United Nations in heritage and has created a cohesive team.

Liddell, with this thick-Scottish accent, just sounds like a soccer coach. Always upbeat and willing to put the extra work in. Who can not like a guy who is willing to wear a kilt on senior night?

Hey Leo Durocher, nice guys don’t finish last. Craig Liddell is the shining example.

There’s no reason for EHS not to have some hope for a playoff win. EHS took opening-round opponent Owasso to the limit two years ago before falling 1-0. That winner would face the Bartlesville at Bixby winner. Bixby only beat EHS 1-0 and Bartlesville is No. 9.

After that it becomes a little more difficult, but having a fighting chance to get a playoff win or two is a step in the right direction.

Enid has overcome the odds just to make the playoffs.

Bartlesville and Enid are the lone schools in the top 10 in 6A that aren’t suburban schools. Suburbia is usually a hot bed for the sport. Just check the number of soccer fields in Norman and Edmond. Suburban Tulsa still feels the benefits of the city once being the home of a NASL franchise.

But Enid’s numbers have grown over the years in the sport. Former players come back as volunteer coaches in bunches.

Campbell is a News & Eagle sports writer.�