Eight minutes into the Feb. 27 Poway High boys soccer game against Westview High in the second round of CIF playoffs, Zach Olow screamed.
After the senior’s foot got caught in the turf and bent gruesomely in a direction that can only be described as not normal, Olow collapsed. Writhing on the ground as the crowd lay stunned and silent, he screamed.
“I saw his foot snap,” head coach Gene Morris said. “When I heard him, I knew something was really wrong.”
There was. The star player, the Palomar League player of the year runner up, was sitting on the trainer’s cart. And after Olow went down early in the first half, the defending CIF champions were out of sync, inconsistent, choppy—wrong.
Poway only had three shots the entire first half. In an opening 35 minutes characterized by turnovers, missed opportunities, and Westview domination in the middle of the field, simply nothing was there.
“I think the team, the boys themselves, lost confidence when Zach went down,” Morris said.
This is not to say that everything was going great before the injury. On Westview’s first possession of the game, as people laid out their blankets and opened their snacks and sat down for a seemingly easy second round playoff matchup, a shot off of a header off of a throw-in bounced into the goal. Westview - 1, Poway - 0.
Just in this opening minute, these opening seconds, you could sense that this would not be a cake walk on the way to another state finals. “After they got their first goal in the first minute of the game, it sucked the life out of us. We weren’t the same team,” junior, and First Team All-Palomar League player, Alex Henry said.
Later in the first half, Westview scored off a rebound. Going into the intermission, Poway was down two goals to none.
Then, Zach Olow stood up. After icing his ankle for 20 minutes, he began to walk around. And then run up and down the sideline. And then, hearing the opinion of the trainer who said that Olow would not play the rest of the game, he entered the halftime huddle.
Morris was pumping up his team. Players began to shout. They broke. Olow walked onto the field.
It was hopeless.
After one run, Olow tripped over a Westview player’s leg and fell. Back to the cart, with junior starter Dan Rakers, who also left the game in the first half with a torn MCL.
From then on out, it was a stalemate. Neither side did much. A yellow card and subsequent ejection for Sean Gallagher after he tackled/flew into a Westview player emerged as the highlight. Look for something to cheer about, the crowd erupted.
“He (Gallagher) played amazing. That showed me something for next year,” Morris said of the freshman playing in the first varsity game of his career.
The week following the Westview match up was not meant for thoughts of next year though.
Sure, Henry can say that “the younger guys really stepped up,” and that with only five seniors leaving, “we will be set for another good run,” but none of that really matters. Morris can say that he sees the team “going right back out and winning league next year,” but it is obvious what everyone really wants to do after the missed opportunity in the 2008-2009 season.