By Brad Fauber
As I prepare to travel down to Salem High School for the Group A boys soccer state championship festivities this weekend, my mind can't help but take a short trip of its own down memory lane.
I've watched over the last few weeks as Sherando's baseball team and Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team have made their respective runs through their postseason tournaments, and each game I imagine what's going through each player's mind as the reality of what they're accomplishing begins to set in.
It's such an amazing journey, knowing that you are only two wins shy of putting your name down in the record books as the best team in the state that particular year. It's an experience that you take with you for the rest of your life, as the memories you take from it will remain long after you walk off the field for the final time.
I've been thinking a lot lately about my own experience at Radford back in 2007, when I was part of a magical run for Strasburg's baseball team that ended in the program's first Group A state title.
The entire season was almost like something that you would see in a Hollywood movie -- we were a just a ragtag group of kids who overcame adversity early in the season, got hot towards the end of the year and did nothing short of pounding nearly every team we faced in the playoffs.
I don't think people gave us much of a chance to do anything after we lost several key players for disciplinary reasons early in the season, but we never let that drag us down and we surprised everyone by making a return trip to Radford after falling in the state semifinals the year before.
Hearing people talk, our season was supposed to end in the state semifinals again, where we were playing baseball powerhouse J.J. Kelly and its heavy-hitting lineup. But all of the hype surrounding J.J. Kelly didn't faze us, and we did all of the slugging while beating the Indians 14-4 in a game where we had something like 25 hits.
Our confidence could not have been any higher after that, and in the championship game against Grayson County, we again took care of business by winning 9-5 in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the score indicates.
We were on top of the world as we took that agonizingly long bus ride home shortly after leaving the field with trophy in hand, and the trip took even longer after we were told we were going to be paraded through town like heroes after arriving back at Strasburg. We couldn't wait to get back and celebrate with our friends and family, and I was amazed at the amount of people who lined the street to congratulate us as our bus rolled through town and back to the school.
I still can't explain how that season played out like it did, and even now it sometimes feels like a dream. It just seemed that we were destined to do what we did. The baseball gods were definitely on our side, and I think we could all sense it. The subject was never if we win, but always when we win, and I think that truly made the difference for us.
I see that same confidence in both Sherando's baseball team and Stonewall Jackson's boys soccer team this season. Both teams go into each game expecting to win, which has been the main reason why they find themselves where they are.
Win or lose, both teams will certainly have plenty to look back on and be proud of, and the memories of this season and the state tournament experience will provide a special bond among teammates that will carry on for the rest of their lives.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or firstname.lastname@example.org