The team lost several players to serious injuries during the regular season, including Gustav Bottin, the team’s only exchange student.
“It was during a game against Saline,” Bottin said about his concussion. “And I was running to the ball. And somebody came running into me and my feet. I lost my balance and fell on my head.”
It took him almost five weeks to be able to play again, and he was unable to play in any of the playoff games. He said he still felt proud to be on the team, however, and helped motivate the team at practice and games.
Their first playoff game was against Huron, where Skyline won after a goal made by junior Oskar Shiomi Jensen. A few days later, the team found themselves in a familiar situation: ready to go head-to-head against Saline for the district title.
“It's very difficult to beat a team three times and they've done that to us,” Morgan added. “We beat them twice one year, and they beat us the third time in the districts. [These guys] never bought into all the hoopla, the hype about Saline. When it really came down to it, I think we wanted it just a little bit more.”
In the 70th minute of the district championship, Skyline junior Bryce Schaner scored the game’s only goal on a free kick, earning the team’s in-district redemption, securing the team their first trophy of the season and guaranteeing a spot in the regional semifinals.
“I’ve got to say, it was a great feeling,” Hassan said. “There's been the big rivalry with Saline for a few years. I was on the team two years ago, when the reverse had happened, where we beat them two times in the regular season and they beat us in district finals. And to be able to have that a little bit of payback, it did feel good.”
As they continued to play playoff games of increasing importance, Morgan and the other coaches looked for creative ways to break the tension and help settle the players’ nerves. At the regional semifinal, they found themselves listening to opera in the locker room.
“It's just, think good positive thoughts, boys we're going to relax, because I knew they were nervous,” Morgan said. “I mean, we had 12 first-year letter winners. So they haven't really experienced this. Then we played ‘Wonderwall Remix,’ and so then we got hyped.”
Three days later, the team — some on the bench due to injuries, most exhausted, but all ecstatic — sat in a Novi locker room, waiting anxiously to play their final game of the season against East Kentwood. Their third trophy was so close, they could almost taste it.
Halftime came and went with the score tied at 0-0, but the team didn’t let that get them down. In the 72nd minute of the game, junior Chris Emerson scored the first goal with a bicycle kick into the net. 58 seconds later, Bryce Schaner managed to head the ball into the goal. With no other goals in the game, Skyline emerged victorious over East Kentwood with a score of 2-0.
“That is one of the best feelings anyone can ever have,” Hassan said. “To be able to go out with the best soccer family team I've ever been on, with the responsibility of having led that team, is just one of the best feelings ever. It has been a goal for my entire high school career, to win a state championship, and to do it, especially with this group of guys, is the best feeling in the world.”
“These guys, I mean, we had tears and we had injuries, so you guys just got to deal with that and get past it,” Morgan said, a tear in his eye.
“And I think that's the thing that they also taught me was strength, that inner strength, believing in yourself, believe in your team and good things are going to happen for you.”
Now that the historic season is over for Skyline men’s varsity soccer, many players will transition into their club leagues to train for next season, or, for some seniors, their college seasons. None of the players, however, will ever forget their 2018 soccer family.