SEVEN SPRINGS – Athletic programs either die or thrive, depending on their culture.
Spring Creek is a perfect example.
A mushroom cloud of success has erupted over “The Swamp” for the Gators, who are quietly building a boys’ soccer dynasty.
Barely two decades old, the program has benefited from its middle school, which churns out talented players each season. They hone their skills during camps and preseason workouts, and reap rewards on the high school level.
Since 2006, the Gators have captured nine regular-season championships in three different conferences – Carolina 1A, East Central 2A and most recently, the Neuse Six 2A.
“We’re extremely proud of them,” fourth-year SC head coach Miguel Torres said. “I mean, they put in a tremendous amount of work. These [six] seniors, I’m very close to them. When I got here, they were freshmen and they’ve always wanted to work.
“They never stopped ringing my phone and saying, ‘Coach, when are workouts? When are we getting back to it?’ They deserve the conference championship.”
The Gators endured two COVID-19 pauses, had matches canceled and were just 2-2-1 overall after a road loss at Greene Central in mid-September.
Torres’ unit launched Neuse Six play with a penalty-kick shootout win over North Johnston, and found a rhythm opposing teams could never break.
What followed was remarkable.
Spring Creek compiled a 10-0-0 conference record — a first in program history. The Gators finished unbeaten at home (9-0-0) for the first time since 2012 and just the third time overall in school history.
“I think this season is finally giving us the validation of the hard work that Coach Torres has been doing to transform the culture and play-style of the program here at Spring Creek,” said assistant coach Jeremy Houser.
“His dedication and hard work outside of practices and games is beginning to pay off. Players are developing more and more every season, and it’s truly an honor to be part of Torres’ [program] transformation.”
Torres is the seventh different coach to take SC to the playoffs and just one of three to spend three or more seasons at the Gators’ helm. Paul Estrada guided the program to its only eastern regional championship appearance in 2009 and Linda Salter took two teams to the eastern semifinals.
Before Estrada’s accomplishment in 2009, Eastern Wayne was the lone county school to reach an eastern final in boys’ soccer in 1999. The Warriors lost 1-0 to Leesville Road in the state 4A playoffs.
“[This season] was a return to full form and having a multitude of players contribute to the success of the team,” Houser said. “Any time a team relies on one or two players, most times that team won’t succeed. Luckily, we continue to develop players with the key mindset that the team is more important than the individual.”
Spring Creek collected 99 goals and 65 assists this season.
Alex Carmona Morales emerged as the team leader in goals scored (28) and total points (67). He and Jossue Pineda Hernandez (15 goals) each passed out 11 assists — one behind team leader Adrian Tavera.
Oswaldo “Ozzie” Escudero provided 15 goals and nine assists.
In all, 16 players scratched on the stat sheet with either a goal or an assist.
“I’m very blessed, thankful to have this team … these teammates,” said Tavera, who handled distribution and leadership duties from the midfield. “It’s just been an awesome experience.”