As EA Day returns to Lancaster Avenue this year, Fords soccer will look to finish a strong season with a win over their rivals, a win that has eluded them in recent years. The past four EA Day soccer showdowns have resulted in losses, and, this year, there is even more at stake: with a victory, the Fords will have a chance to win the Inter-Ac league.
Their record dictates that they should be heavy favorites to win, but their 1-0 defeat to Episcopal Academy on October 17—which has also been their lone loss in league play—adds intrigue to the coming battle.
“I think no matter what time of year we play them, no matter what the record is, they always get up to play in that game,” Head Coach Mr. Keith Cappo said. “We went down early in the first game, and I felt like we panicked a little bit too early and got away from our style of play, and that led to us not being able to find that equalizer throughout the game.”
The pressure that comes with the rivalry has been compounded by the program’s past several defeats on EA Day.
“It’s definitely challenging here,” Coach Cappo said. “When you get all of the stuff leading up to EA Day, it doesn’t make it easy for us to just treat it as another game. There’s a lot of stuff outside the program that puts more pressure on the team, but I think our guys—with eighteen seniors—we have the mentality to handle it and go into Saturday with a lot of energy and enthusiasm.”
Coach Cappo will be relying on his eighteen Sixth Formers to continue demonstrating their unique leadership qualities as the game approaches.
“We have a lot of guys who lead in their own ways: guys who lead by example, guys who lead verbally, guys who bring the team together and do those types of things. So we’ve been really lucky from that perspective to have so many guys to be able to lead in their own ways and compliment each other throughout the year,” Coach Cappo said.
The deep and varied group of Sixth Formers has created a roster with chemistry and accountability, with every Sixth Former being a source of support for the underclassmen.
“Everyone’s a leader, everyone is someone for the younger guys to rely on, and everyone knows what it takes.”Jackson Raleigh ’24
Sixth Form Captain Jackson Raleigh senses that the younger players can approach any of the upperclassmen for advice.
“The great thing about having so many seniors is that I can be a captain—and we have other great captains as well, like [Sixth Formers] [Connor] Cresswell, Sebastian [Perez-Gasiba], and [Thomas Kaplan]—but everyone’s a leader, everyone is someone for the younger guys to rely on, and everyone knows what it takes,” Raleigh said.
Sixth Form Captain Thomas Kaplan has been stressing a sense of urgency to the younger players and the importance of seizing the opportunity in front of them.
“One thing we’ve been harping on is that as a freshman or a sophomore, or even as a junior, you don’t know when is the next time that you’re going to have a real chance to win the Inter-Ac,” Kaplan said. “So we’ve been telling them, ‘This could be your last year. You never know how close you’re going to get.’ Ever since we’ve been talking about that, the work from the underclassmen has been fantastic.”
With the added pressure of EA Day, Kaplan wants the team to use it as fuel to find their best performance.
“This year EA Day’s going to be a lot of pressure on us, with the Inter Ac coming down to the last day of the year, but I think that only helps us,” Kaplan said. “Two of our main goals all year have been repeating in the Inter-Ac and winning on EA Day. We’re all prepared for it, we know what our jobs are, and I think we’re going to get the job done.”
When the whistle blows and the play begins, the Fords will turn to their gritty identity to overcome any adversity that may come their way.
“One of the reasons we’ve been so successful, and something that Coach Cappo says a lot: just run. Run as hard as you can, get great depth,” Raleigh said. “Being the team that gives more effort will always put you in a better position, and I believe that ever since we’ve been doing that, we’ve been in a good place.”
“I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to leave my mark on the school, and I think winning EA Day for the first time in five years would be huge.”Thomas Kaplan ’24
Motivation will be at a high for Fords soccer on Saturday as Sixth Formers, and the team as a whole, seek a historic and season-defining victory.
“I know how much it means to everyone, and it means a lot to me too,” Kaplan said. “I’ve been thinking about how I’m going to leave my mark on the school, and I think winning EA Day for the first time in five years would be huge.”