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An Episcopal, co-educational 100% boarding school in Middletown, Delaware for grades 9 – 12

Memories of the 1981 Soccer State Championship
Liz Torrey

Having greatly enjoyed this fall's long run in the state tournament by the 2021 Saints boys soccer team, we thought we'd throw back to the last time the school's boys soccer team made it all the way to the state championship match. In 1981, under the leadership of former Head of School Tad Roach and former Associate Head of School Will Speers—then both young faculty members in their third year at St. Andrew's—the team won that year's championship trophy. What follows is a collection of anecdotes and recollections shared by the members of the 1981 team upon the retirement of Tad in June 2021.

I was only the manager for this incredible team. While we may not have realized the magnitude of the accomplishment at the time, being part of it was one of the highlights of my time at SAS.  -Janet (Washburn) Acker ’82

Going into the season, we knew we had the makings of a very good team. Our first game that year was at home against a quality Sanford team. As we got pumped up in the wrestling room before the game, someone—maybe Tad—calmed us down and told us that instead of running out to the field for warm-ups, we were going to walk out quietly in single file. Eye black in place, we silently marched out to midfield, where Sanford was already warming up on their half of the field. None of us made a sound as we broke into our pre-game drills. It was clear to everyone in attendance—and to Sanford—that we were focused and ready to take care of business.

We steamrolled Sanford 6-1, setting the tone for the rest of the season.

Our close bond as a team, our ability to concentrate in practice as well at games, and inspired coaching from Tad and Will, all combined for a great year!
-Peter Orth ’82

Where to begin? That 1981 soccer season was a magical one. Bug was an excellent tactician. He knew what our team's strengths were (a bunch of tough, hard-nosed, well-conditioned athletes who would happily run through a brick wall when properly motivated, and one quick striker who could blast the ball past most goalies using either foot) and he knew what are main weakness was (the ability the pass the ball along the ground accurately). So, he set up a plan to use our strengths and hide our weakness. Since high school rules allowed unlimited substitutions, Bug kept a large number of players on the team—24 to be exact—and rotated players, especially midfielders, on a constant basis. With the exception of our goalie (me), we were in great shape. Our midfielders would run like crazy to create a numbers advantage on offense, and then sprint like heck to get back and create a numbers advantage on defense. When they tired out, three more midfielders would rotate in. It was a great strategy.
Bug was also an outstanding motivator. He had a way of inspiring our team—a way that I had never previously experienced as an athlete. I had played soccer, basketball, baseball, and also swam competitively since I was about six years old. By the time I arrived at SAS I’d had many different coaches, who back in the late 1970s could get away with making players run sprints after practice until someone vomited, twice! Bug’s motivation style was much different. He made us believe there wasn’t a soccer team in the state that could ever beat us, if we played to our potential. Now, I am not really sure how he came to that conclusion, because looking back on it, we weren’t a very skilled soccer team. I think we only had maybe two players that played any soccer outside of the school season, whereas teams like Concord, Brandywine, and others had many players that played soccer year-round and possessed a great deal of skill. But we didn’t know any better, and if Bug said there is no way we should lose to our opponent, then we were going to make damn sure we didn’t let him down.

Bug was not only a terrific motivator, but he was also a master facilitator in making sure the team’s needs were met. The school contracted with a bus company to transport athletic teams, and Bug worked hard with the company to find a driver who would not only put up with our loud music—which was somehow played out of four-foot-high speakers that we had borrowed from the school’s music department and that were so big, each speaker got a seat of its own on the bus—but moreover tolerate our rowdy behavior. They finally found an older woman in her 60s who would dress in our school colors and drive down the road allowing us to blast The Who on volume 11. 

In the semi-finals we faced number one-ranked William Penn High, a team that had only let in three goals the entire season. Since we were the second of two semi-final games to be played that night in the same location, we arrived in the stadium parking lot with the music at ear-bleeding levels while the first game was still being played. I remember seeing hundreds of people in the bleachers stand up to look around to see the source of the music. We all just looked back at them and nodded our heads. The Saints had arrived! We found ourselves down 1-0 at halftime, and I remember Bug telling us that we would have the wind at our backs in the second half and there was no way that they would be able to maintain their one-goal lead. He was right. We scored two second half goals and were off to the finals. In the finals, we would meet Concord High, the school I attended as a sophomore and the school that had won half of the championships in state history at that point. We were heavy underdogs, as we were against William Penn. Yet, Bug had us all believing that there was no way we were going to lose that game—and we didn’t. We were tied 0-0 at the end of regulation, and went on to score three goals in overtime to beat my old school by a score of 3-0 and win St. Andrew’s first and only boys soccer state title.
-RJ Beach ’82, goalie

It was really cold [on the night of the final game]... It wasn't just cold, it was extremely windy. One crystal clear memory: at one point in the second half, when we had the wind going our way, a long ball came to me deep in our end. It had the perfect bounce and I was in the right spot to just launch it into space; I knew I was going to overdo it, but I let loose anyway and connected perfectly. The topspin as it came to me made it go way higher than I wanted, but the wind helped carry it all the way down the field. It landed near the end line and bounced out, so it was kind of useless, but I like to think that it demoralized their defense. I'm still proud of that kick.

The newspapers at the time sometimes denigrated us as a "kick-and-run" team, and in fact, we were, but we were damned good at it. Tad and Will recognized this as one of our strengths early on, and they configured our positions and trained us to take advantage of this to maximum effect. “Don't screw around with the ball on defense, just launch it out of there.” To begin with, we had the superweapon of goalie RJ Beach ’82, who could goal-kick past half-field, throw to half-field with amazing accuracy, and punt well past half-field, all in addition to being a truly amazing goalkeeper. Many of our fullbacks and halfbacks were also big launchers, most notably John Rath ’83, Bret Von Urff ’83, Bobbie Tarburton ’82, Ned Groves ’82, Tim Wainwright ’83, Chris Martin ’83, Alan Aikens ’84, Brian Shockley ’83, and even myself. Most of the same people could also launch a really long throw-in from the sidelines, and John Rath even did flip throw-ins on occasion. With all that power-blasting the ball out of our defense, the other team’s offense had few opportunities to touch the ball, and our stellar offense had plentiful chances to run the ball down for scoring opportunities.

Still, my favorite memories from that season? Darius Mansoory ’83 and his boombox, his mixtapes, and Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust” and “We Are The Champions.” -Andrew Liefeld ’83

And the chorus of “TREE” when Andrew [“Tree” was Andrew’s nickname] launched that ball!

After our third goal against Concord, Coach Bug subbed out Hugh and me first. Before he subbed out the defense, we told the fullbacks going in to keep RJ’s well-deserved shutout going and carry him to midfield at the end of the game. Our plan was to carry the coaches out there as well, but as other first-stringers arrived off the field and onto the sidelines, there was a push for a Gatorade bath. However, Jon O’Brien had already taken protective custody of the cooler; it was a cold night. So the next debate was: who carries Roach and who carries Speers? We agreed the taller players would take Speers and the less tall carry Roach. When the clock ticked down, “Wilbur” was helplessly surrounded by bigger young men, but Tad looked like he was ready to defend himself, grinning ear to ear, and saying “No, no” with his hands out to ward off his much smaller would-be assailants. I recall saying “Enjoy the ride, coaches,” mostly to wipe the look of dread off Speers’ face. I think Jobie [Jon O’Brien] called out to Tad and pointed to the Gatorade—that might have been Tad’s happiest moment of the entire season.
-Bob Tarburton ’82

A memory of the championship game I have was John Rath heading the Concord captain on an air ball and knocking him so silly, he actually got on our bus to go home after the game and we had to take him back to his team. Every one of the guys on the team played their hardest that year, and we did it for Tad and SAS. 
-Hugh Marthinsen ’82, co-captain

I have fond memories of the run to the 1981 Delaware state soccer championship.  Foremost in my mind is the teamwork and school spirit, including busloads of students trekking to all of the games, one of which was played in a snowstorm.  Under Tad and Will’s leadership, I was able to play at my highest level. I still have my state championship jacket and can’t wait to wear it for a Reunion at some point! So thanks to Tad, Will and all the teammates who made the championship such a rewarding experience!
-Jay Smith ’82

There were so many great memories of that season, including many of the highlights from the state tournament already mentioned. But for me, the greatest memories came from our practices and all the traditions that kept us together and helped to create that unique bond that made our championship possible—and the insight Tad and Will had in supporting and nurturing those traditions: diving headers in the rain and mud, getting psyched in the small wrestling gym before games, and of course… moose laps. Although I could sprint, my endurance was always a struggle and I came to loathe moose laps.  Near the end of the season, I remember Tad encouraging me to finish in the front, and for that one time, thanks to Tad, Will, and the rest of the team cheering me on, I put my fear and loathing aside and finished at the head of the pack. And that was why the team was so special—because Tad and Will created a group of young men who inspired the very best from each other.
-Ned Groves ’82