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Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Oyster-Adams girls, Paul boys win Capital Cup Championship

As the Tuesday afternoon before Thanksgiving dimmed into evening, the results of the Capital Cup Championship provided two winning schools. No school left the Bell High School field without a first-place trophy.

Everyone — from players, classmates, parents, teachers and community members — had plenty to be grateful for.

The Oyster-Adams Bilingual School community could celebrate and rally around an incredible season from their girls soccer team that culminated in a 6-0 championship-game victory over Paul Public Charter School.
The Paul community, meanwhile, didn't want to leave the site of their boys team's first championship, a 7-1 triumph over Oyster-Adams that was simply a cherry on top of what's been a school-uniting first season of having full DC SCORES programming at their school.

And everyone in attendance for the conclusion to the middle school season — from the dozens of alumni; to the former elementary school coaches; to the parents; to the volunteers; to the DC SCORES board members — could celebrate the presentation between games of a $10,000 check to DC SCORES from longtime supporter Mike Wagener of Soccer '94, which will allow us to continue to expand our Arts/Academics/Athletics model into more schools like Paul.

The afternoon ended a fall season that featured a record 31 middle school teams representing 17 schools and came a day after the D.C. United club team Harrison eked out a 3-2 victory over Cesar Chavez Parkside in the first DC SCORES co-ed middle school championship game. 

The Oyster-Adams girls team showed how a season together on the pitch can build great chemistry. On each possession, there were passes of every variety — across the field, back to the goalie, up the sideline, touch passes, you name it. The Tigers ran a smooth, methodical offensive attack that Paul didn't have an answer for. 

The game went like this: Four goals in the first half; two goals in the second half; then the final whistle and a loud, well-deserved celebration for a team that got better — and even better — all season by working together. Stephanie G. was awarded the MVP trophy, but she quickly shared it with her teammates. 

It was clear from watching the Tigers play that DC SCORES, true to its mission, had "built a team" on the soccer field.

Before the boys game started, Wagener joined DC SCORES Executive Director Amy Nakamoto and Board Chair Chas Roades at midfield to present the organization with the big $10,000 check. The Paul and Oyster-Adams captains posed for pictures with Wagener, Nakamoto, Roades and the check, but it wasn't hard to tell they were itching to play.

A year ago, Paul played an excellent Capital Cup but lost in excruciating fashion — after coming back from a 2-0 deficit — when Lincoln scored the game-winning goal as time expired. Coach Larmar Hyde knew how much his team, back in the championship game, wanted to have a different feeling when this year’s final whistle pierced the cold air.

"This year they came out excited to play in the finals again, hopefully not to make the same mistakes as last year," said the third-year coach.

It didn't take long for Paul's group of experienced players to go on the offensive. On the sideline, DC SCORES Brightwood Education Campus coach Shannon Nelson beamed with pride as she watched five of her former players — all a part of Paul's nine on the turf surface — race up and down the field, controlling the ball and then scoring off a hard shot from outside the goal box that just snuck by the Oyster-Adams goaltender, 1-0. Then, less than a minute later, scoring again on a big shot from the left side of the field, 2-0.

Had the players improved since they started playing organized soccer under Nelson's watch in third or fourth grade?

Nelson didn't have to answer that one. In watching the smooth strides and ball control exhibited by players like Ibrahim S., 13 — who would later be named one of three MVPs — it was obvious that countless DC SCORES practices and games had molded future high school players.

The Oyster-Adams boys, who won the Capital Cup two years ago, had their chances, but just couldn't quite convert. Paul, on the other hand, controlled the ball and took advantage of seemingly every opportunity it had to put a shot on net. 

"Based off last year, they've learned a lot," Hyde said afterward. "They adopted to my philosophy, which is basically possession style of soccer that consists of passing and moving, making sure that you always keep the ball at all times."

It was 4-1 at halftime, then 5-1 ... 7-1 ... celebration time! There was no late-game drama this year, and afterward everyone in a Paul uniform with a medal around their neck — boys and girls — could smile, knowing how much their program has accomplished. 

Last year, Paul's Capital Cup appearance marked the conclusion to the school's season. This year, there is more to look forward to. As a first-year school with the full DC SCORES program, Paul will compete in its first Poetry Slam! next Wednesday night at Columbia Heights Education Campus, where more championships and medals will be on the line.

Hyde said that the soccer success and the preparation for the Slam! — which has galvanized many excited and proud teachers and school administrators — has strengthened the Paul community, building a tight-knit team regardless of a game's outcome.

"It brought the Paul community together a lot," he said. "We've got a lot of faculty members helping out with the Poetry Slam!, and it brings the kids together even more not just on the soccer field but outside the soccer field as well."

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