This Skyline soccer team has been playing together on the pitch for a long time and they are hoping that familiarity and experience pays off this week when the Eagles travel to Dexter to play a tough Dreadnaughts team in a District semifinal game.
How far back do these guys go – well, like we said, way back.
“My love for soccer started all the way back in kindergarten when I played Rec & Ed soccer for the Wolfpack,” says Jake Carlson, one of Skyline’s three senior captains. “The crazy thing is some of my teammates also started their soccer journey there too. Zach Pachera, Tyler Warren, Josh Caldwell, and Paul Fontana all played for the Wolfpack with me all the way up until middle school. It’s crazy to think how far we’ve come, now in our senior year.”
For Carlson, it was love at first kick when it came to soccer. But it was more than running around the pitch, making passes and scoring goals. “Really, I loved the close bonds and camaraderie that developed as a result of playing on a team with my classmates and friends. Besides my love for the game, that is one of the main reasons I have come back to the sport every year.”
Dexter is a very good soccer team. The Dreads, who won the SEC White and have lost just once this season, knocked off Huron 3-1 to advance to Tuesday’s semifinal game. Carlson realizes that this could be his final game of soccer for Skyline High School.
“From here on out, we have to bring our best game,” says Carlson. “Dexter is a quality team like us and it’s going to be a great match up. If we are fortunate enough to move on, then it’s going to be another quality matchup against Pioneer or Saline. They’re both great teams with great coaches and players.”
This is nothing new for Skyline. As the Petty song goes, “I’m learning to fly, but I ain’t got wings … coming down is the hardest thing.” The Eagles know how to fly and they ain’t coming down easily!
“We battle it out against them for the district championship every year,” says Carlson. “I have confidence that if we play our game and capitalize on our chances, we can beat anyone in our division. I can tell you we are going to give it our all whoever we play next. We aren’t ready to be done yet.”
Skyline’s center defender, Carlson started all 23 games last year as a junior and earned the SEC Sportsmanship Award in 2019. He says Skyline’s team goal is always the same – win it all.
“Our team goal, like every team across Michigan, is to win the state championship,” he says. “I’d say that we have a great group of guys this year. I believe we have really good leadership anchored by the 17 seniors we have on our team.”
This year also brought other goals and challenges that previous Skyline teams have never faced. And they are things the Eagles take very seriously. “We made it a priority to follow all the protocols issued by MHSAA and Governor Whitmer. Once we were given the ‘ok’ to play, we took it upon ourselves to make sure our season wasn’t taken away from us. After seeing how devastated our senior athletes were last spring, we knew we didn’t want that to happen to us. Even if it meant staying six feet apart with masks, or being screened before every training, we knew it was worth it to keep the season going.”
Carlson also had to deal with an injury. He was diagnosed with a stress fracture in July and was on crutches for two months. “I wasn’t sure if I’d even be able to lace up this season, but I continued to keep a positive attitude, went to all of our practices and spent four days a week at Blue Lion Fitness training to keep myself in shape. Luckily, I only missed the first few games.”
Staying six feet apart isn’t easy for a team that is very close, like the Eagles. Carlson calls his teammates a second family and it’s a bond he holds close to his heart.
“If anyone needs anything, no one on the team would hesitate to help,” Carlson says. “It starts from the coaches as well. Coach (Chris) Morgan does an amazing job to make this team truly feel like a family. He treats everyone with respect, jokes around with us, and really cares about everyone on the team. I’ve never had a coach that cares as much as he does about his players. He’s an amazing coach and we are all lucky to play under him. I love being around everyone on the team, and I’m going to miss it for sure once the season’s over, we all are.”
Jake, the son of Jon and Frances Carlson, has a 4.00 GPA and is a member of the National Honors Society, DECA and Peace Neighborhood Center.
Carlson plays for the Michigan Tigers Gold team and calls club soccer an awesome experience, one that has helped develop his game and create other long-lasting friendships.
“Still, in my opinion, nothing beats being able to represent your school,” says Carlson, who hopes to keep playing soccer in college. “It’s an amazing feeling to play for your school with your classmates and friends.”
And, apparently, these classmates, friends and teammates “aren’t ready to be done yet.”