CONYERS - Over the past few years, the Salem boys soccer team has established itself as one of the premier soccer programs in Class AAAA.
The 2008 season was another example of that.
The Seminoles captured the 8-AAAA South subregion title and earned a No. 1 seed in the Region 8-AAAA tournament.
And although the Salem boys stumbled in the region tourney, the Seminoles were still able to earn a state tournament berth as the No. 3 seed from 8-AAAA.
In the first round of state, the Seminoles pulled off one of the biggest upsets in the team's history, knocking off St. Pius in penalty kicks.
The Seminoles eventually fell to Alexander in the second round of state.
"I would say it was a very successful season. We accomplished a lot as a team," Salem boys coach Sean DeWeese said. "We did some good things during the season and in the postseason that the guys have a good right to be proud of."
Two games that stood out in DeWeese's mind were the Seminoles' regular season win over Heritage and their postseason win over St. Pius.
"The first Heritage game was a big win to us. The guys really played to their potential that night and everything went smoothly," DeWeese said. "That was the game we scored in the first minute of the game. We came out strong and just played well the whole game. It was very enjoyable to watch and be a part of.
"The St. Pius game was another big win. They just played really well the whole game and everyone played to their full potential. That was a big upset for us."
And although the Seminoles fell short of achieving their ultimate goal - a state championship - DeWeese feels his players still have many reasons to be proud.
"We played well against good teams and I felt everything was really positive," he said. "There were very few low points in the season. I was hardly ever disappointed with the way they played or felt that they weren't trying. Although we didn't win state, I felt we were very successful."
But it wasn't just what the team did on the field that made this team special for DeWeese.
"This team had a lot of talent, but they were also a good group of guys. No one really had an attitude and everyone really got along with each other," he said. "The whole group was very tight and many of them grew up together. We would get together for spaghetti dinners and a lot of the players would hang out outside of soccer. It was just nice to have a good group of kids to work with."
DeWeese stepped down as the team's head coach following the end of the season. In two years, DeWeese led his team to two state playoff berths and his teams never lost a subregion game. DeWeese will be replaced by Kurt Peters, who was an assistant coach for Salem last season.
Brandon Evans can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.