West's Missa Macias stands tall at the top of the box. The senior goalkeeper directs traffic and sets up his defense against Granger.
Macias is not just the Panthers' keeper. He represents the sacrifice players will make to win in a crucial game to secure a spot in the state tournament.
Macias, who moved from midfield to goalie at the beginning of the season, is part of a quad of seniors doing the off-field work to get it done on the field. With Jorge Nino de Guzman, Nemo Abdi and Mo Mo Hassan, the group is showing the younger players what it takes to be successful.
"I've gone from learning from the other players to being the guy my senior year that passes it on to the next guys," Macias said. "I tell them to never give up. Good things can happen if you work hard."
Nino de Guzman attributes the success West has had this season to the team's commitment to disciplined practice and playing all-out during the games.
"There's no way this team could have been successful if everyone didn't put forth an effort," Nino de Guzman said. "Everyone needs to be working for us to win."
He added that Macias in goal has been the difference maker.
"He saves our lives," Nino de Guzman said. "He gets the job done out there."
Hassan has been sidelined most of the season with an ankle injury, but it doesn't stop the Nigerian immigrant from backing his teammates. Hassan, who is looking forward to pursuing a career in education after graduation, sees his role as the future educator.
"I want to give back what I've been given," he said. "I've grown here at West, and part of why I want to go into education is to share my experiences."
Hassan credits the Panthers' communication on the field for helping build success.
"The road trips were the best just joking around and having fun," he said. "We definitely got better from just hanging out."
Abdi said the on-field success comes from the trust the team has built. The fullback is ready to take the team's game plan coming out hard, focus on passing and bringing it to the opposition in the first half to the next level.
"This has been one of the greatest teams that I've ever been with," Abdi said. "The coaches always support us and keep us going no matter what. My teammates are great. They're like my second family."
West shut down Granger 3-2 and secured a postseason spot, and coach Kris Hamlet acknowledged the role his four seniors played in helping the team reach the playoffs.
"These are excellent athletes, people and citizens," Hamlet said. "They have done a great job showing senior leadership throughout the year."