Schuckman: By choosing to be phenomenal, Raiders ensure they are never to be forgotten
EAST PEORIA, Ill. — Be phenomenal or be forgotten.
Such an easy choice.
“No one wants to live their life forgotten,” said Jake Hoyt, a senior center back on the Quincy Notre Dame boys soccer team. “Doesn’t everyone want to be phenomenal?”
When Raiders coach Greg Reis posed that challenge to his team on the first day of practice in August, it resonated. Several of these players were part of the 2019 QND team that finished third at the Class 1A state tournament, and it gnawed at them that they hadn’t been able to replicate or exceed that success.
It left open the possibility they wouldn’t be remembered.
A state championship would ensure they’d never be forgotten.
Saturday at EastSide Centre’s Corwin Clatt Field, the mission to finish was completed as QND scored three second-half goals and beat Belleville Althoff 4-1 in the Class 1A state championship, winning the fourth title in program history.
“It’s been the one goal since the beginning of the year and we achieved it,” senior midfielder John Drew said. “It’s huge for all of us,”
It elicited excitement, energy and raw emotion from all of the Raiders, especially the seniors, who had shouldered the wait of coming close once and missing out a year ago.
“Finally,” senior center back Colin Kurk said. “It’s been a long wait since freshman year.”
It could have grown longer had this team allowed some hiccups and some late-season injuries to curtail their drive and their commitment.
“Really, just halfway through the year is when I believed a title could happen,” Kurk said. “There were times in the season where I was a little nervous, but the pieces just started falling together eventually. You could just see it.
“When we got into the postseason, everyone knew that it could be our last one at any moment. We kicked it into another gear, and nobody could play with us.”
It circled back to Reis’ challenge and his unending desire to push the Raiders to excel.
This is the third state championship won during his 27-year reign as head coach and the fifth state trophy of his career. The two victories this weekend moved him to 395 career victories, which is currently the 11th most in Illinois High School Association history.
His players know what his commitment, his knowledge and his belief in them means.
“I think it was the coaching staff pushing us through and us wanting it more than (Atlhoff),” Kurk said. “We just knew whoever wanted it more was going to come out on top tonight.”
There’s a reason why that desire was so strong.
A legacy came with the victory.
“Seeing the guys we had, seeing the camaraderie we had, seeing the mentality we had, I knew this was going to be a special group of guys,” senior forward Tanner Anderson said. “To have that leadership we need, it was super special for us to get this done.”
It came down to answering one question.
Be phenomenal or be forgotten. Which would it be?
“Definitely phenomenal,” Hoyt said. “Definitely.”
Miss Clipping Out Stories to Save for Later?
Click the Purchase Story button below to order a print of this story. We will print it for you on matte photo paper to keep forever.