Head coach David Sharp believes the team camp held before any games were actually played on the field accounted for the team meshing together in such a quick fashion. However, for the most part, the team was an amalgamation of unfamiliar faces.
“I have two boys that are my sons that I’ve coached off and on all their lives on the team,” Sharp said. “So, you’ve got a personal attachment to the team. It’s the first year I’ve ever coached at the school, so all of the other players, with the exception of a few that I’ve coached on club teams before, were all new to me. But we formed a fast bond. The team camp was huge for us. I always do a team camp at the beginning of the season where we actually sleep over and spend the night once or twice and work out. That forms an immediate bond in the team. The team was so impressive; it was just a really, really good team. We didn’t have one bad player, not one bad parent. It was just one of those natural seasons where all the pieces just held together on and off field.”
Sharp used the team camp to build team chemistry, while also teaching his players the 4:3:3 formation, a system that uses a sweeper and stopper as opposed to a center back and defensive midfielder. Such a formation suited the Rebels best on the skills of the team. Sharp said the leadership on the team was key to the team’s success.
“Everybody compensated for everybody,” Sharp said. “The leadership, the older boys on the team, were so supportive of the younger, more inexperienced players. That was none of my doing; they’re just good kids. It was just fun to sit back and watch it all fall into place.”
Following the team camp, the Rebels began action on the field in early February with a preseason game against a quality opponent, Lyman Ward Military Academy, a team they would face again later in the first round of the playoffs. Sharp said not only was it a relief to get a first look at his team in action, but also to come away with a win.
In fact, the team continued to win all the way into April, when they lost at home to Fort Dale. CVA defeated Fort Dale earlier in the season on the road. It was the team’s only loss of the season. Sharp said the loss was a wake-up call for the team. Following the loss, they resolved not to loss again and the team came through on their resolution by winning the AISA state championship.
None of the playoff games were easy. Lyman Ward was the team’s first round opponent. Sharp said Lyman Ward came out with so much passion and heart that the game was close for the entire first half, before the Rebels were able to pull away in the second half.
According to Sharp, Glenwood, CVA’s semifinal opponent, was one of the best-coached teams the Rebels faced all season. The Gators were able to adjust to the Rebels’ defense and had strong ball movement, but in the end CVA escaped with a victory.
In the championship, they faced the one team they had lost to in the regular season: Fort Dale. Sharp said among the games he has been to, the championship ranks among the very best. The game was scoreless after one half of play. Jonathan Langston scored an open field goal for CVA to give them a pivotal 1-0 lead. However, Fort Dale received a penalty kick and was able to convert to tie the score 1-1. At the end of regulation the scored was still tied, and the score remained tied at the end of the first overtime period and was tied after the second overtime period. At that point, the game moved to a penalty kick shootout. Even at the end of the first five penalty kicks, the score was still tied. By the third kicker of the shootout, Eli Cobb, CVA finally broke the tie for the win.
Four of the team’s players were named to the AISA All-Tournament team: eighth grade left midfielder Miles Sharp, junior stopper Austin Brauer, senior right defender Kyle Maxwell, and tournament MVP junior sweeper Zachary Q. Sharp. Miles Sharp led the team in assists with 16. Brauer was in the top two on the team in goals scored with 15 goals for the season. Zachary Q. Sharp led the team in goals scored with 16 for the season.
According to coach Sharp, Maxwell is one of the toughest players he’s ever coached, a player who rarely left the field all season long.
The team’s only other senior player, goalkeeper Alex Nelson, finished the season with 35 saves. Nelson and Maxwell will both be attending Troy University this fall.
By winning the state championship, Sharp has already received interest from multiple players at other schools wishing to attend CVA next school year with intent to join the team in addition to the overwhelming majority of the players returning from this past season’s squad.
Above all, Sharp said the most impressive thing for the team this season was in the sharing of spiritual values within the team and with opponents when action of the playing field was long over.
“Perhaps the highlight of our season was not winning the cup, but watching as every opponent agreed to join us in a circle of prayer at midfield after every game,” Sharp stated. “This was very inspirational to our entire team and speaks volumes of our opponents and their coaches.”