Also serving the communities of De Luz, Rainbow, Camp Pendleton, Pala and Pauma

Bonsall High School's own Ted Lasso

As a former screenwriter, I can attest that studios have paid me large sums of money for stories half as good as this.

Bonsall High, now in its 10th year, is a tiny upstart of a school. It was conceived out of a grassroots effort of dedicated PTA moms who wanted their kids to continue the small community feeling their kids enjoyed at Bonsall Elementary, Bonsall West Elementary, Vivian Banks Charter and Sullivan Middle in high school.

These parents had an uphill battle on their hands, union districts rarely ever made it through the political and legal gauntlet to become a unified school district. But the Bonsall community surprised everyone and found a way to make it happen. Residents in the Bonsall District would have a high school.

And from the beginning the tiny high school, which moved into a newly constructed building on the far edge of the middle school campus, had soccer. Now, BHS didn't have a field, nor proper goals, but they had a dream. The sports program would start with the beautiful game.

Some years there were barely enough players to field a team. Every year the challenge was where would the team play, where would they practice? The team found a home field at the Ingold Sports Park in Fallbrook and they would practice on a half field at the middle school.

Bonsall High's sports program's goal, as recently articulated by the principal, Daniel Smuts, "is to build life skills and provide players an opportunity to develop their talents. At Bonsall, students get a chance to be a part of a team and they get to play. Bigger schools, with bigger pools of talent, really only have opportunities for elite athletes who have dedicated years to that one sport. At Bonsall, there's more room to grow and to take part in more than one sport or activity."

Two years ago, Athletic Director Andrea Breuninger needed a new boys soccer coach for the upcoming season. The high school had swelled to nearly 400 students and there was a group of students who seemed to have a soccer ball permanently attached to their feet at lunch, even dribbling to class during the passing periods.

Unfortunately, coaches seemed to be in shorter supply than a regulation practice field. And with the season approaching, it looked like the school might have to forgo having a team.

A chance conversation with the office manager, Linda Pipe, at Sullivan Middle school revealed that there was a very experienced coach, recently retired from a career in international business in the neighborhood. Mrs. Pipe volunteered her husband to coach. "I think she was eager to find him something to do," quipped Breuninger with a smile.

Enter Ennis Pipe to the Bonsall High School program. Joining the team only days before their first match, Coach Pipe instantly bonded with the team, "They were a great group of guys."

Led by Captain Roman Ibarra-Ponce, the team got off to a rocky start. "The first time that team of players took the field together was at our first game." Due to rain and the delay at finding a coach, they had not had the chance to practice on a full size field before the game.

At the first game last season, they played a pretty seasoned team and they got clobbered. At that game, two rookie, freshman players made a couple mistakes. One player accidentally made an own goal and another did a full "Charlie Brown" missing the ball and falling on his back after sliding on the wet astroturf.

Unfortunately, the other team's strength was not good sportsmanship. They actually made a video of the mishaps and shared it on the internet, making Bonsall High School Soccer a tiny bit famous for the absolutely worst reason.

"We had a rough start, and if you only looked at our record, it didn't get much better," said Pipe. "But I met with the guys, and I leveled with them, I asked, guys what do you want to do?"

That team had several seniors, including their captain, Ibarra-Ponce, who was enlisting in the navy right after the season. He spoke for the team when he said, "I want to have fun with my friends. We just want to play." And play they did. Each game, there were more and more highlights, less and less errors, but a win wasn't in the cards.

The last game of the season was a home game at Ingold Field. BHS was 0-16 and facing the same team from the beginning of the season. The same team that had made the viral blooper reel. Teachers and parents lined the field to root The Legion players on and provide support.

The game proved to be the highest scoring of the season, with Bonsall winning by five goals. And in an ending they wouldn't believe in Hollywood, the very same players who had been featured on that viral video both scored their first ever goals! BHS closed the season 1 and 16, but that single victory lit a flame.

This season, the team had more of a running start before the season began. There were 11 returning players as well as some new experienced talent. The team also had for the second year, Coach Pipe.

Coach Pipe started playing soccer at 12 years old when soccer was still looked upon as that "foreign" sport by most Americans. His parents were both from England and the family relocated there while Ennis was still in school. He played in Suffolk with kids who had lived and breathed the sport their whole lives.

By the time Pipe moved back stateside, he had become quite a player himself, playing for his college team at Foothill College and eventually playing in the semi-professional league in the Bay Area.

Pipe began his coaching career at age 21, coaching soccer at the high school level while playing in college. He coached at the club level in Cedar Rapids while also playing for an adult club team. By the time Coach Ennis and his wife Linda had moved to Bonsall, he had coached for 25 years. Believing that he had hung up his cleats for good, Coach Pipe started substitute teaching, "I've always enjoyed working with kids."

That was until that fateful day, when Breuninger asked, "Anyone know where I could find a soccer coach?"

Coach Pipe gave the team four objectives: 1) be part of the high school experience (belonging) and embrace being a student athlete, 2) have fun and develop your skills, 3) build confidence and life skills to prepare you for life and 4) develop character and backbone.

This season, despite losing their star goalie, the team roared back to life, closing the season undefeated in regular league play. Led by team co-captains Drake Carterette, Thomas Sanchez, and Jesus Jaime, five players scored their first ever goals of their high school career. Not only did the team rack up the most wins in school history, but they also advanced to the second round of the CIF playoffs which is a record achievement for the team.

Of the team, the coach had nothing but respect for his guys, mentioning, "That Drake is a great leader, that sets up the entire team with no ego." Of first year team member, Thomas Sanchez, the coach said, "Thomas does things with the ball that I've never seen anyone do." And of Jesus Jaime, who had to step in as goalie, "It shows great character to step into a position that is new and do it for the team."

The only question on anyone's mind who saw the closing game at Ingold Field was, "I wonder how far they'll go next year?"

 

Reader Comments(0)