The boys varsity soccer team triumphed against Oyster River High School’s infamous rival, Coe Brown, this past Saturday, a fitting way to kick off the festivities and celebration of the high school’s thriving soccer program.
On September 25th, the September Soccer Saturday event took place to fundraise for a press-box and celebrate the 60th anniversary of a successful Oyster River High School soccer program. Hosted at the Oyster River High School turf field, players, alumni, and parents gathered for an alumni kick-around in the morning and the boys game versus Coe-Brown in the afternoon. In the evening, there was a celebration to commemorate the accomplishments that both the past and current girls and boys soccer program have achieved. With speeches from alumni and past and current coaches, it was a truly special day to celebrate Oyster River soccer history.
The evening celebration began with a speech by Jack Edwards (‘75), a former Oyster River soccer player and famous sportscaster for the Boston Bruins. Lined up in front of his podium were the current varsity soccer teams and over 30 Oyster River soccer alumni and their families who traveled far and wide to celebrate their team and accomplishments. Edwards began by recognizing all the alumni who played on a championship team and honoring former Oyster River coaches who have passed away through the years. Including the surnames Clark, Seely, Weeks, Allan, and Monroe, the families of these past coaches accepted a soccer ball signed by the current varsity soccer teams to honor the contributions they have made to the excellence of Oyster River soccer.
Following the recognition and contributions of past coaches, Edwards moved on to acknowledging the soccer alumni who have passed away. “As we acknowledge the players who have passed before us, please remember their joy in the game and their joy in being our teammates and the joy they brought to us,” he said. He continued with a reminiscent story that strung together the personalities and skills of players from past championship teams ranging all the way back to the 1960s.
“We gave our all for each other then passed the torch to the next generation as our elders had to us… we played the right way, the Oyster River way. We knew we were a part of something bigger than ourselves, bonded in our commitment to a glorious tradition that has now spanned three generations,” said Edwards.
Cyd Scarano, coach for the current girls varsity soccer team, followed Edwards with a speech about her legacy and history with Oyster River soccer. Akan Ekanam, the boys varsity soccer coach, spoke shortly after, giving his thanks to the alumni for making the trip to the event and expressing his gratitude for the volunteers that helped to bring the event to realization. Joe Murdoch, Kim Golding, and Nicole Bellabona, all former players on championship teams, then described what it was like playing Oyster River soccer back in the day.
Another alum spoke to the crowd next, but she was not a player. “When I think of Oyster River Soccer, all I think of is excellence,” said Linda Nelson, former coach of the Oyster River girls varsity soccer team from 1995 to 2015, during her speech. She spoke not only about the excellence of the team, but also about its competitive history. “[Other teams] judged the success of their season on whether or not they could beat us… Even if they came close to us, within one or two goals, they considered their season a success.” She attributed the achievements of the girls soccer program to more than just the skills and dynamic of the team. “It wasn’t just our team, it was the sense of community that has allowed us to be successful for so many years,” she said.
The last to address the group was none other than Paul Bamford, the head organizer of the event and an Oyster River soccer alum himself. In an emotional speech, he thanked all of the alumni, including his fellow teammates from the 1969 and 1970 championship team, for coming together to reunite, reminisce, and celebrate the success of the program. “It’s such a special thing to have all of you here,” he said. Then, he directed his attention to the varsity athletes sitting in the bleachers. “The girls and boys up there, I’m going to speak to you on behalf of everybody here. This is a very special thing that you’re involved with; this is Oyster River soccer and there’s a tremendous amount of tradition here. All of these [alumni] lived it. There’s nothing better than to do this [Bamford holds up a championship plaque], and we’ve done [that] 13 times,” he said.
Bamford’s teammates, Murdoch, Edwards, and Michael Brayton finished off the celebratory night by recognizing the community service and work that he has done for the community. They presented the Bamford Scholarship, an award that will go to a “varsity athlete, any [senior] member of the soccer team, boys or girls, who has a 3.0 GPA and is loyal, dedicated, committed to his or her team and, most importantly, is devoted to community service,” said Edwards. The scholarship has raised more than $8,800 in pledges so far.
Before the boys varsity soccer game, alumni had their own opportunity to connect on the field during the “alumni kick-around” that took place in the morning. “One of the immediate realizations that I had playing in the alumni kick-around, which was a full-field 11-vs-11, is that fitness levels definitely fade but the sense of community here has never faded,” said Golding.
John Attwood (‘72) and Gary Trotter (‘73), both players on the 1972 championship team, agreed that the sense of community has been the one of the most notable aspects of Oyster River soccer. Trotter expressed that his favorite part of this event was “seeing old friends. It was like a wedding where you get 5 minutes to talk to people that you haven’t seen in 50 years. You want a half an hour with each person.” Attwood had a similar sentiment, saying that the event “was special, but it was so short of a time… I wish I had more time.” Both alumni were grateful for the opportunity to reunite with their teammates.
Players also had the opportunity to speak with alumni. “One of our past assistant coaches [Beverly Meijers] is here and we love her… it’s so great that the generations can connect like this,” said Charlotte Cousins (‘22), co-captain of the girls varsity soccer team. Both players and alumni enjoyed the chance to connect and share stories about their experiences with the Oyster River soccer program.
Prior to the celebratory evening event, the boys varsity soccer game against Coe-Brown began at 4:00 in the afternoon. Alumni, parents, and students from both schools filled the stands, rowdy and ready to watch the rival teams battle it out. With an aggressive, action-packed first half, Oyster River’s fan section erupted in cheer as Hunter Perry (‘23) received a cross from Nik O’Hern (‘23) and scored the first goal late in the first half.
Amidst a mix-up in the front of Oyster River’s defensive line, Coe-Brown slid a shot through in the last fifteen minutes of the second half. Not long after, Oyster River reclaimed their lead when Brady Luczek (‘23) scored an impressive header off of a corner kick in the last ten minutes of the game. With two minutes left on the clock, Luczek scored Oyster River’s final goal. Soon after, Coe-Brown scored off of a penalty kick awarded as result of a direct foul.
A 2-3 win for the Bobcats, Henry Zent (‘22), co-captain of the Oyster River boys varsity team, reflected on the outcome of the game. “We definitely dug deep [during] the last ten minutes to get those two goals, but I felt like we should have been playing better possession-wise. We tried our hardest and that was what got us through,” said Zent.
The girls varsity soccer team was also scheduled to play the rival team, but due to an outbreak of COVID-19 on the Coe-Brown girls varsity soccer team, the game was postponed. Brooke Thompson (‘22), a co-captain on the Oyster River girls varsity soccer team, expressed her disappointment with the situation. “I was really upset because we worked so hard during the practices leading up to it and we were so amped up [and] dialed in,” she said.
With a nostalgic alumni kick-around, a win for the boys team, and the success of the evening celebration, the Oyster River soccer program plans to continue to host events that celebrate soccer excellence and aim to connect alumni and current players. “I believe that this started a building block to see if we can get better organized, reach out to our alums, and [plan] an annual event,” said Scarano.