Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2007

Colonels’ state title is a perfect tribute

Magruder boys soccer team finishes 19-0-0 in season dedicated to late coach

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Laurie DeWitt⁄The Gazette
Full of emotion, the Magruder High School soccer team celebrates its state title — and perfect season — after besting Perry Hall, 5-1, Saturday night.
It was a good season for soccer for Gaithersburg area high schools as both the Magruder boys team and the Quince Orchard girls team claimed state titles.

Every player on the Magruder boys roster was playing for the same, unforgettable cause this season. And on Saturday night, they let everyone know it.

When senior midfielder Michael Lansing powered in Draymond Washington’s rebounded shot 15 minutes into the Colonels’ 5-1 4A state championship-winning victory over Baltimore County’s Perry Hall, each Magruder player on the field ran over toward the near sidelines at South River High School in Edgewater to celebrate the opening goal with their rabid fan base.

They lifted up their jerseys to reveal white T-shirts with different personalized messages to their late, former head coach Scott Alexander, who died of a brain tumor in March at age 36. Alexander was influential in the community as a soccer coach who tirelessly worked with kids on and off the field, and was extremely popular. He was also at the helm when the Colonels won their first state title in 2001.

The people he influenced most needed to make sure he was properly commemorated.

‘‘Mine says ‘R.I.P. Scott — I just wanted to say we miss you,’” said Lansing, who played his previous three seasons under Alexander. ‘‘I know he’s watching us and this was for him.”

If he was indeed watching from above, Alexander must have been awfully proud. The Colonels did the unthinkable in an ultra-competitive Montgomery County and state Class 4A soccer schedule, going a perfect 19-0-0. They set a bevy of school records along the way, including most goals scored in a season (85) and most shutouts in a season (12). Also, as of Nov. 13, they were ranked 10th in the nation by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America’s high-school boys soccer poll.

For Alexander’s successor and longtime friend, Steve Pfeil, Magruder’s victory on Saturday was an especially fitting coronation. He was hand-picked by the late head coach to spearhead the junior-varsity soccer program a year ago, and in an interesting parallel, he was facing the same Perry Hall team that took on, and lost to, the Colonels in the state championship during Alexander’s debut season six years ago.

Pfeil felt the team had more than one head coach Saturday, and throughout the season.

‘‘I felt that we had a presence; it’s not something that you can describe,” he said. ‘‘I’m not saying I’m the most religious person, but you just feel it. You get a sense that no matter what challenge you’re going to face, you’re going to be able to deal with it well. And to be just more direct and specific, Scott Alexander instilled in these boys tremendous values.”

After the game, the team gave the game ball to Alexander’s widow, Kris, who watched the contest from the stands.

Pfeil, for one, was just glad to see it all over. There was tremendous self-imposed pressure for the Colonels to win their final game. With the memory of Alexander hanging overhead, the perfect season and one of the most raucous school fan bases the state finals had ever seen in attendance, they were overwhelming favorites.

Now that they’ve secured their place in history and honored their fallen hero, the Magruder soccer community can finally take a stress-free breath.

‘‘I just felt relief that it wasn’t a really close game,” said Pfeil. ‘‘I had already been joking when people would ask me how I’m doing, I’d say, ‘I’m breathing.’ Had this been a tight game, I don’t know if I’d be able to make it to the end. Not with what was at stake.”