Photo by Heather Middleton
They had no choice. Entering this season, the Drew boys' soccer team was backed into a corner, with only two options: keep up, or get left behind.
With the success of the second-year school's basketball programs — the boys' team advanced to the Class AAA quarterfinals, while the girls' team won the Region 4-AAA championship — the Titans boys' soccer team made it their mission to match their success.
They knew that they faced the same hurdles the basketball teams did. They knew their team contained no seniors, had never played a varsity schedule and had only played together for one season.
"But we saw basketball get going and be good," junior defender Tunde Adeyonin said, "so we were like, ‘OK, we can do this, too.'"
Indeed, Drew has burst onto the scene. The Titans entered Friday's game against Jackson undefeated at 8-0 overall and 6-0 in Region 4-AAA. They just entered the state rankings, jumping to ninth in Class AAA. They can claim the region championship with a win against Eastside on Thursday.
Which would be yet another remarkable feat from a high school athletic program still in its infancy. Drew does not have a senior class. All of the school's sports played a non-varsity schedule last season.
But Clayton County's newest school has wasted little time in making its presence known. Though the football team struggled to a 2-8 record, it did claim a signature win against state-ranked Eastside, and the volleyball team made the state tournament.
The momentum really picked up during basketball season, when the Lady Titans made a late-season surge and won the Region 4-AAA tournament, while the boys' team spent several weeks during the regular season ranked and advanced to the quarterfinals.
That served as a catalyst for what the Titans boys' soccer team has done.
"Our goal from the very beginning was to make it to state," Titans coach Danielle Cogbill said. "Now, with the success of our boys' and girls' basketball teams, our next goal was to go that far and further in the state tournament. We've really used them as a motivation."
"We didn't want to get left behind," junior defender Umbaldo Gutierrez said. "We wanted to keep up the success for the school and make a name for ourselves."
Drew has made a name for itself with a stifling defense, anchored Adeyonin and Gutierrez in the middle, and freshman Kendall Humphrey and Efrain Pacheco on the wings. That's allowed midfielders to play up in support of the Titans forwards, where Fernando Martinez shines. The junior has scored 14 of the team's 36 goals this season.
Cogbill instituted a tiered captain system. Each position has a captain, while she also designated three captains over the entire team.
"It's kind of built those leaders into our team," Cogbill said, "which has allowed our entire team to gel. Part of the discipline of our team has come because the boys have been able to become leaders."