A good day to be a Cougar!

By Eric Erickson
Sports analysis

Homecoming at Como Park High School on Oct. 7 was a festive event featuring a sports tripleheader on the Como turf field. The football game kicked off at 1 p.m. followed by the boys and girls Mayor’s Cup soccer matches at 5 and 7 p.m., respectively.

Two out of three Cougar teams walked off the field victorious while 100 percent of Como’s participants played with pride and appreciated the opportunity to represent their peers and school.

The Como football team defeated the Harding/Humboldt Knighthawks 28-14. Boys’ soccer fell to the Humboldt Hawks 2-0. Girls’ soccer recorded a 1-1 tie versus Humboldt but won the penalty kick shoot-out 4-3 to earn the Mayor’s Cup.

For those with lengthy Como connections, hosting Homecoming games on campus is still special. A suitable facility wasn’t completed at the school until construction in 2017, with the first Homecoming football game played in the fall of 2018.

Thankfully, current students (and some newer staff) are largely unaware there was a time when the Cougars traveled for Homecoming! The lights above the Como turf also make it possible to extend play into the evening, making for memorable nights of soccer.

Homecoming football victory

Fans arrived early to play lawn games, eat burgers grilled by the Como Booster Club and settle into their bleacher seats before kickoff.

The Marine Corps JROTC Color Guard presented the flag, the Como Choir sang the national anthem and the 11 football seniors were introduced to cheering supporters.

The senior class endured a winless season in 2022 and started the 2023 campaign with three straight losses.

But a switch was flipped in late September when the Cougars rolled over Minneapolis South and then Edison.

Cougar confidence was high heading into Homecoming. Players knew if they executed their game plan, a high school Homecoming memory could be made.

The Cougars’ dream start with dominant line play led to three rushing touchdowns in the first half by three different seniors: Thierry Tetevi, Will Stiles, and Matthew Corniea. Senior quarterback Ebisa Worika completed a beautiful 40-yard touchdown pass to sophomore Vontae Williams to close out the Cougar scoring in the second half and put the game out of reach.

The junior varsity defense got a chance to play, seniors smiled on the sideline, and the sun shined as the clock hit zero.

The post-game meeting/celebration included a familiar refrain from Coach Kirby Scull, echoed by his persevering players, “It’s a good day to be a Cougar!”

Boys Mayor’s Cup match

The Mayor’s Cup has become the most anticipated game on Como’s schedule since its inception in 2016. The annual game against Humboldt for the silver cup and bragging rights is a fan favorite as well. Playing it on Homecoming weekend? Even better.

The match is always intense and closely contested. The Cougars won it last year at Humboldt, but in 2023 it wasn’t meant to be. While disappointed at losing this time, the Cougar players said they enjoyed the competition and appreciated the chance to play for a large crowd on the home turf.

“There was a lot of school spirit and a lot of people that I never thought I’d see come to a game, actually came to our game,” said senior goalkeeper Liam Donegan. “I think the energy of the whole day allowed for a lot of students to come together and see us play.”

Cougar girls keep Mayor’s Cup

The third and final game of the day was by far the most dramatic. According to senior captain Kora Becker, it was also extremely stressful.

“We were worried about having to go to penalty kicks when we were tied. The entire game was passionate, and we wanted to win so bad. It was so intense but when we won it was just pure excitement and happiness.”

Having a penalty kick shootout to decide a game in the regular season is not the standard. The 1-1 tie between the Cougars and Hawks would usually be the final result. But for this special occasion, everyone from the players, to the fans, to the officials know – a winner must be determined!

To secure the win, penalty kicks were converted by Giselle Sanchez-­Esparza, Ava Lopez, Lucy Dietz and Becker. Senior goalkeeper SaySay Hinton made two saves in the shootout (and saved one penalty kick in regulation). When Hinton caught Humboldt’s final attempt, an emotional celebration ensued as the players jumped for joy.

Asked to summarize the significance of winning the Mayor’s Cup on Homecoming, Becker beamed. “I think it will be one of the most memorable nights ever. Absolutely. It brought us all closer together.”

It was a good day to be a Cougar.

Eric Erickson is a teacher at Como Park High School and a longtime coach of school and youth sports in St. Paul.

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