THIS CHAMPIONSHIP was supposed to be for the many outstanding players who have passed through Brookland-Cayce’s storied boys soccer program. This was supposed to be the season Brookland-Cayce finally won a state championship ring.
Once again, it was not.
Despite a gallant effort against the state’s No. 1-ranked Class 3A team – undefeated Eastside – Brookland-Cayce lost a nail-biting thriller. Eastside punched in the winning goal with 1:30 remaining in the second overtime for the 3-2 decision.
“We put a lot into this season to prepare for it,” Brookland-Cayce coach Kevin Heise said. “At the end of May, we started preparing for this season with the goal to get to the state final and give ourselves a chance.
“We got here today, and we made a decent account of ourselves, just not enough polish to put the championship in the goal, not enough there.”
As with every championship-level club, a group of seniors established themselves as leaders. For Brookland-Cayce, that was Aaron Davis, Tyler Brazell and Nicholas Day.
“Our team goes as Aaron Davis and Tyler Brazell go,” Heise said. “One I call heart, and the other I call soul.”
Like many players before them, both Davis and Brazell grew up around the Brookland-Cayce program, including serving as ball boys for several years. Davis, according to Heise, represented the team’s heart because he played with will and determination. Brazell was the team’s soul because of the pride he took in being a part of the program.
Then there was Day, whose older brother, Corey, graduated two years ago. The brothers were six-year members of the program. Both also wore inter-cochlear ear implants. There were games this season when the batteries went dead in Day’s hearing apparatus, leaving him unable to hear while playing.
“Between Nick, who plays in the back, and Tyler and Aaron who play in the midfield, there is a lot of glue right up the middle of the field who just love B-C soccer,” Heise said. “They just love it. That’s where the will to win comes from. They just love representing this school and this program.”
That is precisely what Heise envisioned when he joined the Brookland-Cayce program as a junior varsity coach during his freshman year at USC. A year later, in 1991, Heise likely was the youngest high school soccer coach in the country at age 20.
“At the time, soccer wasn’t stressed at B-C,” Heise said. “Here was somebody young and aggressive who wanted to do something. They were like, ‘Why not?’ I think that’s what got me in the door.”
Cayce and West Columbia long have been considered baseball and softball communities. Heise helped change that image, partly through the continued development of the Congaree Rapid Soccer Association. Now, young athletes desire to play soccer in high school as much as baseball or softball.
It helps that Heise has established a winning tradition. This season – his 24th as coach – Heise passed 400 wins. From 1996 on, Heise’s program has been on the brink of winning a state title virtually every season.
The Bearcats lost the 2001 3A title game to Riverside, 1-0, despite having a 15-5 shots-on-goal advantage. “I still wake up in the middle of the night wondering how we let that one get away,” Heise said. The 2002 club also lost the state championship game, that time to Greenville.
Despite Lower State final losses in 2006, 2008 and 2010, Brookland-Cayce long since has been known as a state 3A power. With that winning tradition has come tremendous pride in the program, particularly among the former players.
One such alum is Troy Lesesne (class of 2001), who now serves as an assistant coach for the professional Charleston Battery soccer club. Lesesne emailed a note last week to Heise, who read it to his team.
“Gentlemen, you’ve reached a point in your season that only two teams in the program’s history have attained,” said Lesesne’s message. “You are in the 3A state championship game. You are playing on the last day of the year, while everyone else looks on in admiration. You are 80 minutes away from not just winning a title, but forever being known as the best team the Bearcats have ever had.”
That might be true, even with Saturday’s loss. But even that recognition cannot erase the sting of again failing to secure the first state championship ring for the Brookland-Cayce program.
Rest assured, Brookland-Cayce will be back next season, again in search of that elusive title.