There’s new life in the Clearfield boys’ soccer team — a sense of purpose that has come after years of adversity. The Falcons spent the past three years in the Region 1 doldrums, entering the 2012 season on a 33-game losing streak.
This year, something clicked. Clearfield has won seven of eight games this year and looks determined to not stop there. Theories abound for what event flipped the switch, from the most simple to the tragic.
Falcons flying again
Prior to the start of the season, the last game Clearfield had won was against Syracuse on April 14, 2009.
Last year, the Falcons scored four goals the entire season. Against Kearns on March 20, Clearfield scored four goals in one game.
Junior Stockton Larsen leads the team with four goals this year, while Bitter is second with three goals.
An easy answer may lie in the return of two of their best defensive players. Seniors Trevor Young and Bryson Westbroek, the team’s top two in the backfield, missed all of last year with grade issues, along with other players. The teammates buckled down, improved their grades, and have helped lead the team to three shutouts on the year.
"We really just wanted to be on the team this year," Young said. "Everyone kicked it into gear to get better grades so we could be around to help the team."
Many players feel the change came following the tragic deaths of two fellow students.
"Everyone on the team wanted to win for those kids," Young said. "Everyone, not just the team but the school, was so happy when we won those first few games because those wins were for them."
Yet others feel that the plight of a third student, Kavi Balikrishnan, also inspired the team to higher levels. The junior forward, an exchange student from Denmark, brought an upbeat personality and an unwavering attitude to the squad. Balikrishnan had overcome cancer once, and he found out he was facing a second bout of cancer and would need to return home for treatment.
In Balikrishnan’s final game, coach Chuck Miller found some playing time for the Sri Lankan refugee against Syracuse, and he used it admirably. Balikrishnan scored a goal with 15 minutes left to play, a blast at the top of the 6-yard box. Exhilarated, he tore off his jersey and ran off the field. The team went wild.
"Kavi is a really great guy — everyone loves him," junior defender Bruce Bitter said. "He was so different, and we would always ask how it was over in Denmark. I feel like he pulled us together. He made us tighter knit as a team and made us want to be more successful for him."
The Falcons have entered the regular season now — whether they can make it through to the playoffs remains to be seen. Still, if Clearfield doesn’t win another game the rest of the season, the team has shown that, in the most difficult times, sports have the power to transcend and uplift.
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