As Station Camp senior Tyler Jessen lay on the ground with his face in the dirt, the realization that a third straight Class AAA state soccer championship was not meant to be after his penalty kick went just high, hitting the cross bar and bouncing away from the net.
First-year Bison coach Jeremy Cooke’s senior class was looking to put a stamp on their legacy Friday afternoon with a third straight Class AAA championship, something no team in that classification has ever accomplished.
The Bison battled for 110 minutes of regular time only to see their quest for history come up short in a 2-1 loss to the Bearden Bulldogs that was decided on penalty kicks, 4-3.
The Bison, crushed with sadness, accepted their silver, second-place trophy, but it was clear to everyone in attendance it wasn’t the hardware Station Camp expected to leave with.
Nonetheless, with disappointment, heart break and despair looming, Cooke delivered one final message to the 2019 Bison squad.
“Me coming over this year was a big challenge as far as transition for both of us,” he said. “We had some rough patches early but we have come together at the end. I told them before the game it doesn’t matter what happens on this field they have already given me the best I could ask for. My heart was full from what they have given me this year.
“It was the best decision I’ve ever made to come to this school and it’s the proudest I have ever been as a head coach. I’ve never been more happy than I am today in my 16 years coaching. They battled back, they give me everything and I know it is hard for them right now, but I hope they understand what they do with each other, building these relationships with each other and going through these battles with each other will mean so much more later in life.
“Even though today was a loss they will learn to respect the game, each other and a loss now. When you win two state championships you don’t know what it is like to lose. They will look back at this and see how much it meant to them.”
Cooke made the transition from Beech to Station Camp this past summer after former head coach Tom Morand retired. While some questioned Cooke’s move to a rival school, he has stated over and over again it is a blessing to be able to have the keys to a Ferrari.
That is exactly what this Bison soccer program is; a Ferrari. The best of the best. For the past four years they have shown exactly that.
As freshmen, this senior class finished in the state semifinals, then followed that up with back-to-back state championships before ultimately falling short this season in a heartbreaker.
There is no other way to put it. This result is, and will always be, a heartbreaker.
I know it may not mean much coming from the guy who covers six other soccer schools in Sumner County, but it was a joy to watch this senior class compete for the past three years.
Coming from Robertson County in the spring of 2017, I didn’t have any ties to any program or coach, and yet the Bison family, players and coaches pulled me in.
They greeted me with warm smiles, firm handshakes and how-do-ya-do’s. That goes a long way.
I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t want to cover history Friday afternoon in Murfreesboro. I know ethically, as a journalist, you are supposed to be objective and never root for any team.
But the reality is I rooted for the story, and the best possible story was a three-peat.
This column isn’t about me or what I wanted. But I want the Bison players and families to know that this journalist was rooting for the best story, and that meant I was rooting for you.
While I do not share the heartbreak that the players, coaches and families feel, I do empathize with you, hoping this story had a happy ending.
So, until the next time Bison fans, hold your heads high because an 84-7-7 record with back-to-back state titles in the last four years is nothing to be ashamed of.
There are plenty of soccer teams out there that wish they could have half of Station Camp’s success.
While the pain of losing may never heal, Bison players, you can take pride in knowing you gave it all for your brothers.