Kennedy High boys soccer team inspires in NorCal title run

Kennedy High boys soccer team inspires in NorCal title run
The Kennedy High boys varsity soccer team pose after the NorCal Division IV championship game at Natoma High-Sacramento (Photo credit: Sal Morabito)

While their team bus blew a tire prior to Saturday’s game, nothing could stop the Kennedy High community from feeling pumped up about the Eagles’ soccer season.

On Saturday, the boys soccer team played in its first ever championship game in the 3rd Annual CIF Northern California Division IV tournament. Prior to the game, their team bus had a flat tire, according to Mister Phillips, member of the West Contra Costa Unified School District (WCCUSD) Board of Trustees. Phillips posted a photo of the flat on Facebook. Unfortunately, the team would later fall 3-2 to Natomas High-Sacramento in the title game hosted by Natomas.

The result, however, should not be deflating. Before the NorCal tournament, Kennedy High “was getting ready to turn in its soccer gear” and call it a season following a 3-0 loss to league rival St. Mary’s in the North Coast Section Division IV semifinals, according to a report by WCCUSD. Nearly a week after the loss, Head Coach Harry Campbell learned his team was “going to the ‘ship” thanks to the addition of three divisions to the young NorCal tournament.

The Eagles didn’t spoil the opportunity. Despite entering as the No. 8 seed in an eight-team tournament, the team handed Summit Prep-Redwood City (19-1), the Central Coast Section Division IV champion, its lone season loss in the first round. Two days later in Placerville, Kennedy High blanked El Dorado, the San Joaquin Section Division IV winner, 5-0.

After those two wins, Coach Campbell called his team, which finished 15-10-3, “resilient.”

“I told them today, win or lose, we got to the championship game and we are going to give it our best shot,” said Campbell in the district report.

The Eagles fought hard to the very end in the championship game, said veteran special education teacher Sal Morabito. They scored first before giving up two goals, but then evened the game. Natomas scored its game winning goal with about 20 minutes remaining, Morabito said.

The action wasn’t just happening on the field, but also on the sideline.

Kennedy High boys soccer team inspires in NorCal title run
Coach Campbell (in red) looks on prior to Saturday’s game. (Photo credit: Sal Morabito)

“Everybody was enjoying not only the exciting game, but also Kennedy’s long standing energetic coach,” Morabito said.

Coach Campbell’s “nonstop” encouragement and “excitement when his players did well or score goals were worthy of being in a movie,” Morabito said.

“Campbell made us all laugh just about during the whole game,” he said. “He is an exceptional coach and mentor to his students.”

Campbell has taught at Kennedy since 1993 and coached soccer for 10 years, according to WCCUSD.

In an email to school members before the title game, fellow teacher Jeffrey Pollock described Campbell as a PE teacher and coach with an “unmatched and unprecedented” passion for soccer and school sports. Along with organizing basketball and soccer tournaments at the school, he served as a mentor to first-year teachers and coaches, “made us laugh in faculty meetings,” “spoke truth to power,” and “inspired us with his passion for our school.”

“He subs our classes and refuses to allow students to get away with not doing any work,” Pollock said. “He inspires his team to meet goals for grades and improvement in behavior.”