It's been a memorable year for the Pflugerville Hendrickson boys soccer team. But, due to unforeseen circumstances caused by COVID-19, the Hawks' players and coaches haven't been able to finish what they started. Seniors like midfielder Kaden Franco are missing a large part of their final high school campaign after they led the team from a 6-4-4 record to a regular season-ending eight-game win streak and the second playoff seed from the UIL 13-6A district.
"We knew not to go in overconfidently like the first time we played," said Franco. "We also knew how to play our opponents the second time after rewatching film and changing a bit of the lineup. We basically knew our opponents a lot better and became a more reformed team."
That type of stretch resulted in a second half sweep of district opponents and the big wins against Round Rock Westwood and Austin Vandegrift on February 14th and 18th made the Hawks a team to watch going into the UIL 6A postseason.
"The games versus Westwood and Vandegrift put out a statement that we're the best team in the district and that the other teams should basically come prepared to lose," said Franco. "It struck fear in other teams and put them down before the game even started."
The UIL soccer playoffs were supposed to start on March 26th, but Pflugerville Hendrickson never got to show it's power play to UIL 6A Region II and beyond. That's because the Coronavirus postponed it and cancelled similar forms of entertainment over the past month.
"We were very disappointed on how playoffs [have] been delayed, but we've been doing a lot of team bonding," said Franco. "Playing online games together, [like] Call of Duty and a little bit of Fortnite, so we can keep in touch everyday."
No one knows when everything will return, but the UIL has made it clear in its messages to the public over the past few weeks that it wants to find a way to host the remaining events on its 2019-2020 athletic schedule. In the meantime, Franco and his Pflugerville Hendrickson teammates have had to find other ways to spend their time.
"I've been helping my dad around his little farm and just trying to stay in shape," he said. "It's pretty hard considering that there's a lot of time still left in the day, making me feel almost lazy staying inside."
Whether or not the season resumes, Franco will think highly of his time with Pflugerville Hendrickson. That includes the last time he stepped on the soccer field with the Hawks, which resulted in a 5-1 victory against McNeil on March 13th.
"We went out and played and had a good time," he said. "What I'll remember [about] our last game of the season is how [Jacob] Stern went from a coach to a fatherly figure in the middle of the game after something had happened with my family," he said. "I'll also remember my good friend Xjavier Martinez coming to help me out through a tough time."
And you're probably wondering about Franco's path beyond high school. If it goes as planned, he'll find opportunities in multiple arenas.
"The plan for after graduation is to go try out for the Austin Power indoor team," he said. "And God willing, try to make it through the nursing program at [Austin Community College] and become a [registered nurse]."
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It was a busy, busy weekend across the DFW high school sports landscape: girls UIL playoffs finishing the second round; boys UIL tiebreakers taking place; TAPPS hoops whittling down to the state championships; softball and baseball getting into full swing; and so much more.
We'll do our best to recap the high points of the weekend here.