The state class 4A soccer semifinals may be between Manfield Legacy and Mesquite Poteet, but Sulphur Springs will influence the outcome.
While it might be Pirates vs. Broncos on Birkelback Field, Saturday at 4 p.m. in Georgetown, memories of playing for the Wildcats will be floating around in the heads of Aaron Cottrell and Casey Osborn.
On the eve of the big game, it’s not only the state semifinal playoff game that totally occupies his mind, but memories of Sulphur Springs.
“I will always remember the support we (the Sulphur Springs soccer team) got from the community. Playing under the lights at Gerald Prim stadium is a very special memory,” Osborn said.
Osborn, now the coach at Mesquite Poteet, graduated from Sulphur Springs High School in 1999. He played college soccer Tyler Junior College and later at the University of Mary Hardin Baylor.
While at Sulphur Springs he racked up 27 goals in one season, still third place on the all-time list. He was the offensive MVP his senior year. During college he was first team all-conference defender.
Mesquite Poteet comes into the state semifinals with a 21-4-3 record. Osborn is in his fourth year as head coach of the Pirates.
“Having my team go up against Aaron’s team is pretty cool. We try to play each other during the year, but we have never met in the playoffs,” Osborn said.
Osborn said he got to be Cottrell’s teammatein Sulphur Springs for two seasons.
“Aaron was as a center midfielder, a great leader on the field and a very talented player. I am sure his team plays the same way he did,” Osborn said. “He always was a motivated player. I think both of us learned that under our coaches at Sulphur Springs.”
Osborn continued, “The football staff, people like coach (James) Cameron and (Chuck) King, they kind of took us under their wing. They did a lot to motivate us. Aaron is the same way his team is a fun team to watch.”
Osborn said, “We sure don’t want to lose on Thursday. But if we have to, I’d rather lose to a friend. I think our kids can handle it either way. The bottom line is one of us will be coaching next week in the state game. It will be bittersweet.”
The coach said his team is playing well heading into the most important game of the year.
“We peaked in district, then dropped off a little,” Osborn said. “But in the playoffs, we have hit a new level. All the kids know what is on the line. They know what it is all about.”
Osborn said his team is familiar with his stories of Sulphur Springs and playing for the Wildcats.
“They have heard all my stories,” Osborn said with a laugh. “I think going up against Mansfield Legacy is a motivator for them to because they know our history. I just know this team has worked very hard and and we have never been this far in the playoffs. Losing out in regional last year, really gave us motivation to try to go to state.”
The Broncos of Mansfield Legacy are also led by a Sulphur Springs graduate.
Cottrell graduated from Sulphur Springs in 1997 after having played soccer, cross country and track. He was a state qualifier in cross country and track and MVP of the district in soccer his senior year. He also won the Forrest Gregg Award at Sulphur Springs High School. He also coached at Red Oak and coached one year at Sulphur Springs leading the team to a 14-0 district title. He also won three state TAPPS 6A cross country and track titles while at St. Thomas High School in Houston.
He attended Texas A&M where he ran track and cross country. His wife, Andrea Starns Cottrell, also is a graduate of Texas A&M and was captain of the Texas A&M women’s soccer team.
“I lettered in track, cross country and played football one year at Sulphur Springs,” Cottrell said. “I moved in my sophomore year from Mansfield to Sulphur Springs and I was the new kid trying to fit in. I soon found out the soccer team was a special group of guys. Several of those players ended up being soccer coaches.”
“The coaches in Sulphur Springs took care of us, they were great men,” Cottrell said. “You have to mention names like coaches King and Cameron. They were just unbelievable.”
The Wildcats were also winning and that made being a soccer player at Sulphur Springs more fun.
“What I learned at Sulphur Springs has helped me a lot in coaching,” Cottrell said. “Some soccer teams have skills and are talented, but I learned the toughness it takes to be a champion. Our team is like that, we’re a scrappy bunch.”
He played soccer under Rodney Barthelemess and Walter Rule.
Cottrell said, “I think Casey’s team will be like mine. We’re determined, blue collar style of team, we learned at Sulphur Springs. The team at Legacy is younger, this is just our second year. Poteet has more experienced.”
He predicted the game between Mesquite Poteet and Mansfield Legacy could come down to a shootout or overtime, the squads are so equally matched and know each other so well.
“Casey is a good friend and a coach, I have loyalty to all my former Sulphur Springs teammates and graduates, we have a special bond. You don’t see that kind of loyalty these days,” Cottrell said.
Cottrell added, “When our teams go after it Thursday, we will not let up one inch. Each team wants to win and advance. But after the game is over, we will shake hands and be proud of one another.”
Sulphur Springs head soccer coach Andy Holt, also a SSHS graduate and former player, is also pleased to see a matchup of former Wildcats on the field this deep in the state playoffs. Holt also played high school and college soccer with Osborn.
“Casey started his coaching career at Mesquite Poteet,” Holt said. “He has done a fine job. He made it to the regional finals last year. Aaron started the soccer program at Mansfield Legacy and in this is just their second year, he obviously has them headed in the right direction.”
“Both are great guys and I am excited for them and their success,” Holt said. “They will play each other in the state semifinals, which means one of them will be playing for the state championship. It would be great for another Sulphur Springs alumni to win a state championship.”
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