Tuesday night, the City of Brownsville honored the 5A state champion Porter Cowboys Men’s Soccer Team with a proclamation written by Cesar De Leon, commissioner At-Large “A,” and a heart-felt speech by Ricardo Longoria, District 1 commissioner.
“To my childhood friend and colleague, José Espitia, congratulations my friend. Congratulations to you and your staff, to your players and to your families,” Longoria said to the soccer team during the Brownsville City Commission meeting. “You bring pride not only to the city but to our part of town.”
Twenty-six athletes, four coaches and two managers from Porter Early College High School traveled April 15 to Georgetown and won the Class 5A State Soccer Championship, bringing the title back to their hometown.
The Cowboys defeated the Wakeland High School Wolverines of Frisco 3-2 after scoring 10-9 in penalty kicks.
“We started the playoffs. And so, we took it one game at a time, and we were able to win the championship against Frisco Wakeland, a team that was ranked No. 2 in the nation that was very strong and, of course, the favorites,” said José J. Espitia, the team’s head coach. “[I’m] very happy and excited for my kids. I’m very proud of them.
They never gave up. They fought even though they were smaller. [The Wakeland players] were very physical against us. They were really strong and fast, but we never gave up and always tried to implement our style of soccer and at the end of the day our boys came back with the trophy.”
Espitia also said that Brownsville is a powerhouse when it comes to high school soccer.
“It’s consecutive, back-to-back titles for Brownsville, so it speaks volumes about Brownsville [and Valley] soccer,” he said.
In 2015, Brownsville ISD’s Rivera Early College High School took the state championship during its then undefeated streak.
“Rivera did a perfect season last year and it was the first time in history that any team–in the Valley, right–to go undefeated and win the championship, but at the same time it was a motivation for the kids,” Espitia said. “They saw that the Rivera kids did it so, you know, thanks to them our kids started believing that they could do it themselves.”
After losing in the regional tournament semifinals in 2015, he said the Cowboys wanted to come back stronger this season.
“Our focus wasn’t to go undefeated, but our focus was to go to state,” Espitia said. “And by the time we knew it we had won district and were undefeated for the whole season. So, once we got into the playoffs we knew that we could do the same.”
Porter finished the nearly perfect season with a record of 26-0-1 (win-lose-tie). The Cowboys tied Jan. 8 in a home non-conference game against Houston’s North Shore High School in a shootout after a score of 1-1.
“When it comes to high school soccer everything ends here,” Espitia said. “Your last game that you want to play is the state championship game, but for now it’s just a matter of enjoying the championship and trying to get our seniors, … a good farewell and get them ready for college.”
Among the nine seniors graduating this spring is Uriel Sepulveda, a center-midfielder with an interest in electrical engineering. Like many high school seniors, he is still undecided on which college to attend for the next four year years.
Asked if he had a university in mind, Sepulveda replied: “Not in mind, right now, but I’m looking into offers to see what benefits me the most and, well, the coaches have helped me out a lot.”
The center-midfielder was one of the 10 players who scored during the shootout at the state final.
“I’m blessed to be part of this group and be able to reach our goal,” Sepulveda said. “It wasn’t easy but we worked so hard for it. Like they say, ‘the reward is always the best.’”
Staying for another year as a Cowboy is Alexis Armendariz, MVP of the 5A Boys championship game.
“I have one more year in high school and I have nothing more than to keep playing and enjoying my senior year and make the best of it,” said the junior forward in Spanish when asked what his aspirations were from here. “Right now, I have aspirations to try out for professional teams. That is my dream. It has been my dream since I was small.”
Armendariz, who scored both goals in the championship game, said he grew up playing soccer in Matamoros, Tamaulipas, Mexico, and would like to go pro one day.
Porter High School Principal Hector Hernandez said the school is still celebrating the team’s victory and continued to do so with a pep rally that took place last Friday.
“We’re the only two-time state titleholder in soccer in the Valley,” Hernandez said. “Maybe from San Antonio down, I’m not sure.”
Brownsville has a strong history of high school soccer state championship titles. Lopez Early College High School won in 2004, Porter won in 2006 and Rivera won in 2015.
“One of the things that we’ve been preaching since [April 18] and [Tuesday] is ‘we need to transfer all these energies and positive things about what our players just did–if we can transfer all of this, now, onto the academics part,’ and we tell them, you now ‘it’s the same thing. You never give up with your schoolwork, never give up with your academics,” Hernandez said over the phone.
During an interview with The Rider before the meeting, Longoria gave some words of advice to the graduating seniors.
“My message to the seniors is savor the victory, but also–at the same time–think about your future,” Longoria said. “Think about what you can do with this. You’ve been given this. Now go out and see what you can do with it. Become a soccer coach and come back just like [Espitia] did it and give back to the kids.”
Before the celebration ended Tuesday night, Brownsville Mayor Tony Martinez offered some advice to the team and staff.
“Gentlemen, coach, I want you to remember just one thing, you’re champions, and don’t ever forget it,” Martinez said. “A champion always remains a champion, so congratulations.