SPORTS HEADLINES

Vamos toros! Bridgeport soccer players feed off fans

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, April 12, 2017
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Georgetown Bound

GEORGETOWN BOUND – Bull players shower Coach Ben Parks after the win over San Elizario that sent them to the state soccer tournament. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

As the ball rolls forward to start play Saturday on the sun-splashed field at Birdville ISD Fine Arts/Athletic Complex, a musical number bellows from the maroon sea of fans in the stands.

“When the Bulls go charging in; Oh when the Bulls go charging in; How I’d love to be in the stampede when the Bulls go charging in,” sings the crowd, which includes one of the chant’s writers, Bryce Powers.

Later comes another cheer, “Vamos toros!”

“They are very easy to learn and catchy,” said Powers, a Bridgeport senior.

“Chase Williams and I came up with them after Alan Green brought it up to us. He’s a big Liverpool fan in the Premier League, and they have chants.”

Urged on by several hundred fans singing and chanting, the Bridgeport Bulls took care of business on the field, upsetting the 2015 state champion San Elizario 2-1 in the 4A Region I final to earn a trip to the state tournament.

“We’d like to thank all our fans,” said Bridgeport sweeper Eric Aguilar. “We feed off them.”

Bridgeport, in only its second season, has provided fans plenty to cheer about. The Bulls will now take on Progreso in the 4A semifinal at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Georgetown’s Birkelbach Field.

Over the season, fans have turned out in droves to the astonishment of the opposing teams. Even Saturday, Bridgeport High School Principal Jaime Sturdivant was approached by a Birdville official with praise.

“The Birdville assistant athletic director stopped me and said they couldn’t believe how many people we had there,” Sturdivant recalled.

The turnout is not something new to this year.

Powers recalls the stands being packed just for tryouts last year.

“The home side of the stands had a mass of people sitting there,” Powers said. “We had 50 kids that tried out. Most had never competed in an extracurricular event before.”

Efrain DeLuna, the team’s leading scorer during the regular season, verified Powers’ assessment about the excitement in the program from the start.

“We had 50 kids come out. It was incredible,” he said.

The excitement has never waned. Even when Powers didn’t make the team, he was there to cheer on his friends.

“This is something we’ve wanted so long,” Powers said. “It took so long to get. There were multiple petition drives to get a program started.

“These are also homegrown kids. These are the same boys we were watching play in the Wise County Youth Soccer League.”

Along with the success on the field, Bridgeport ISD officials believe the program has helped in the classroom and community by drawing a population that has not previously been involved in extracurricular activities.

According to the 2016 snapshot for the district, the student body is 49.9 percent Hispanic. The soccer team is nearly all Hispanic.

“One of the reasons for the program starting was we saw that need,” said Bridgeport Superintendent Eddie Bland. “We’re trying to meet the needs of all our students.

“Across the state, that is a subgroup that everyone is trying to improve scores in and reach. Has the soccer program helped? We don’t know that statistically, but anecdotally, we believe yes. All the research tells us that kids involved in extracurricular activities do better.”

Sturdivant agrees the program has brought success beyond the field.

“You can see the school spirit and pride,” she said.

She pointed out it was also a student-led initiative to organize a spirit bus to take fans to the playoff games.

Powers believes this is just the start for the program.

“For the Hispanic youth, these are their role models,” Powers said. “It’s the equivalent to me of watching the Green brothers play football in 2008 and wanting to be like them.”

As the Bulls aim to bring a banner home to Bridgeport, the ride to this point is something the players and coach Ben Parks will not forget. The Bulls are expecting a massive crowd and plenty of chants in Georgetown Wednesday.

“I can’t say enough about how important these fans have been,” Parks said. “It’s such a motivating factor to hear them roar on and push us forward. They’ve all just bought in. They love our kids and want to support them and encourage them. It’s truly special what this community has done for this soccer program.”

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