There were only two seconds left in the PepsiCo Showdown soccer tournament, and the Trojans were down by one. A corner kick by senior Carson Hooker was headed into the goal by junior Joshua Bode as the whistle blew.
They tied the game.
The boys stormed the center of the field, because for 90 long minutes the Trojans, led by senior captains Jon Stremler and Josh Wise, battled Lincoln-Way High School. Senior goalkeeper Zack Orange, defended the cage over and over again along with defensemen Michael Vogt and Ethan Roemmich.
With 1900 students enrolled at Lincoln-Way West, Timothy Christian was clearly the underdog. The tie forced the game into penalty kicks, and12 shots later, with some critical goalkeeping by junior Jason Westra, our boys claimed the win.
Timothy Christian High School had earned a spot in the championship game. It was a storybook finish for a team that has meshed not only as competitors, but as brothers. The chemistry the boys have on and off the field has translated into a winning season and earned them an IHSA 1A first place ranking in the state.
But the PepsiCo Championship game was scheduled to be played on a Sunday. And as a rule, Timothy Christian teams do not compete on Sundays, except in IHSA-sanctioned or other governing state association competitions (such as a state championship) where Timothy has no control over the scheduling.
The decision of whether or not the soccer team should play in the championship game went to the school board. While the board members were extremely proud of the soccer team, they recognized the spiritual value of maintaining our policy of observing the Sabbath. In a win at all costs society, trophies and titles often define a season or even a player’s worth. For athletes, success on the field often equals perceived success in life.
But these are worldly aspirations.
Please don’t misunderstand — this soccer team is something special. We want them to win. We want the stands packed on a Friday night to cheer them on to victory. But we also want them to be men of integrity and courageous leaders on and off the field.
And sometimes that means taking a stand and not playing.
The soccer team didn’t lose the tournament by not showing up. It was indeed a victory. It was a victory to help develop these young men’s faith and help them understand that being a courageous leader isn’t easy — it demands hard choices and sacrifices.
So instead of suiting up for a championship soccer game on Sunday, the team went to church together.
PepsiCo was so impressed that they announced plans to hold future championships on a Saturday, so schools like ours can participate. This victory isn’t something we can display in any trophy case. It is a victory that will have a ripple effect.
If you come and watch these boys play soccer, you’ll see Coach Joel Zielke leading them in prayer before and after every game. He not only trains them to be superior athletes, but to also be men of integrity. Men who will eventually have their own jobs and families and careers. And, for the glory of God, men who will continue to Go Beyond worldly expectations, stand strong in their faith, and be courageous leaders.