DeKALB – Catching up with old friends, meeting other alumni, playing on a new field for the first time – and oh yeah, some soccer, too.
The DeKalb boys soccer team had its third annual alumni game Saturday night, with 24 former Barbs showing up.
“It lets our guys come out and relive the glory days of the past,” DeKalb boys soccer coach Brent McIntosh said. “Plus, we have some of the current players come out here to fill in. I think it keeps our present connected to our past, and it keeps a lot of that success we had in the past kind of current.”
Assistant coach John Hall has spearheaded the effort, and he said he’s happy that three years in the game is drawing enough former players to field two teams – although some current varsity players showed up to help pad the numbers. Two years ago, Hall said more than 30 players showed up, but he’s happy the numbers still are high enough for two teams.
He said he also liked the laid-back atmosphere of the game.
“It’s nice we don’t have to play a lot defense,” Hall said. “Being at the older end of the bell curve, it’s fun to see some of the guys I didn’t see play in high school. There’s some good players out here, and [we] see everyone put on an exhibition.”
Hall said most of the first-time players who were far enough removed from the program noticed the new field first. One of those was Justin Spangler of the Class of 2004.
“Seeing the new field, it’s a blast,” Spangler said. “We played on a grass field, which was fun, but it’s nothing compared to this, under the lights. It’s definitely an improvement over the last 15 years or whatever it’s been.”
Spangler is a sergeant first class in the U.S. Army Reserve, a military police officer serving at Guantanamo Bay. He lives the rest of the time in Stillman Valley after recently moving out of DeKalb, he said.
He said he joined basic training between his junior and senior years of high school, and he has been an MP since.
“I’m still playing soccer every chance I get,” Spangler said. “They wanted me to come out, and here I am.”
The teams were split up by year of graduation, with the players who graduated in an odd year in white and the even-year graduates in black. The white team scored three goals in the last nine minutes to tie the game, and it eventually won on penalty kicks.
The black team scored first, with a goal by Deven Hall (2014) in the fifth minute of the 70-minute game – although it was shortened a little at the end to ensure it got done before an oncoming thunderstorm hit.
Andrew Stratton (2013) tied the game for the white team four minutes later, but the black team scored the next three goals – by Sean Woodford (2014), Misha Ryzhov (2014) and Mike Leopardo (2016), all before the 18:15 mark of the first half.
Hall, a 1999 graduate of DeKalb, started the white team’s comeback, scoring with 9:05 left. Then Stratton scored twice more in the 67th and 68th minutes before the team won on PKs.
Despite the more relaxed atmosphere, Hall said the desire to win still is strong.
“Tonight we definitely wanted to get some goals,” Hall said. “It’s definitely bragging rights, and I’ll talk about this all year and remind the young guys some of us old guys can still play a little bit.”