Maturity fuels Houston’s championship run


Houston High School boy

By Mac Trammell

For the first time since 2000, a Germantown boys’ soccer team became a team full of men.

The Houston High School Mustangs won the 2015 soccer state championship by defeating the Science Hill High School Hilltoppers 3-2 in late May.

The Mustangs finished the season with a record of 22-1-2, which, as of May 19, earned them the 14th best spot in the nation, according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America.

“This season is one to remember,” said rising senior Peyton McKnatt. “We all had fun playing together because we’re one big happy family.”

McKnatt received the Best of the Preps Soccer Player of the Year award after the season. The left-winger finished with 22 goals and 13 assists to help lead the Mustangs.

But, as Head Coach David Wolff said, not even McKnatt’s position was safe.

“[Our] number one strength was depth,” he said. “Every day was about working to be able to get on the field. That competition was key—not only against the opponent but against each other in practice.”

This was Wolff’s tenth season as Houston’s head coach of both the boys’ and girls’ teams. He’s won four state championships between the two, and before that, won six in 10 years at Ridgeway High School.

However, even though Wolff thought the team had the talent to make the state tournament at the season’s opening, a scoreless draw against Arlington High School in late April prompted a lengthy team meeting.

“The team met for 30 minutes after the game —maybe even longer than that — and the question I asked them was, ‘How many men do we have here?’ And nobody could say if there were any or not.

“And from that point on,” he continued, “they took it upon themselves to mature and understood what was necessary.”

After the Arlington match, the Mustangs went on a tear, winning the final six games of the regular season by a combined score of 37-1. They entered the postseason against a familiar foe, Arlington, who couldn’t hold up against a red hot Houston team.

“We actually drew Arlington in the quarters, which was sort of poetic,” Wolff said. “We knew them, and they knew us. By being able to play Arlington, we didn’t have to worry about scouting or unpredictable behavior.”

After a 3-0 win over Arlington and a 5-1 drubbing of Ravenwood High School in the semifinals, Houston met in the championship game the only team, Science Hill, to hand it a loss up to that point in the campaign.

“For the postseason, Wolff told us this was the time when we man up and do what we have to do,” said McKnatt, “to always think about the game ahead and nothing else. Coach Wolff and Coach Brooks helped us out a lot the whole year to prepare us for that state final and we just went out and did what we had been doing all season.”

The Mustangs went down a goal early, but found the netting three consecutive times to outdistance the Hilltoppers and earn a state title.

“To watch [the players’] joy out there on the pile as they’re celebrating, is far greater than anything [during the season] I’m able to look back on,” Wolff said.

Wolff and McKnatt have next season to look forward to as well, since the team featured a lot of youth.

“Next year is going to be fun,” McKnatt said. “We have good players coming in. I think we will do well and hopefully repeat what we did this year.”

Wolff, although happy with the results this year, has a greater goal in mind.

“The thing that we have to do is stay hungry,” he said. “It’s real easy to get complacent after you win. One championship, you go down in history as ‘we won state.’ And that’s a great feeling. But to win back-to-back is one of those things that you go down in the history of the state. People remember those teams.”

While both players and coaches enjoy the offseason and prepare for next year, Wolff reflected on the 2015 Houston boy’s soccer team.
“It’s more about relationships than it is about anything else,” he said. “For those guys, it was about achievement.”

Achievement and maturity.

“I think in a two month period they grew up a lot,” he said. “On the bus after [the championship game], I told them I got on that bus with a team full of men.”