Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez always wondered how it would feel once his high school soccer career was over.
Now that he has completed four years at Pasco High School, he wished he had more time.
More time to enjoy the loyal fan support at Edgar Brown Stadium. More time to bring home a state trophy. Most of all, Meraz-Rodriguez wanted more time to share the field with his brothers Jesus and Kevin, who were teammates on a gifted Bulldogs squad that went 14-0 in the Mid-Columbia Conference and won the District 5 championship.
His teammates and coaches feel the same way. Imagining Pasco soccer without Emilio is a difficult prospect — like losing your favorite baseball glove. Sure, you can replace it, but there sure was something special about the old one.
Emilio Meraz-Rodriguez, the Tri-City Herald All-Area player of the year, saved his best for his senior season. Bulldogs coach Matt Potter, after watching him develop his playmaking skills for three seasons, knew he needed the right person to bring his talented lineup together. That person was Meraz-Rodriguez, who scored 12 goals and totaled 13 assists in leading the Bulldogs to the Class 4A state tournament for the first time since 2009, bringing them all the way to the quarterfinals.
“I had never been there. My senior year, it was nice to represent a team that good,” he said. “(Losing) was disappointing. It was pretty hard, but the other team played really good.”
The dream may have ended there, but he’ll always have plenty of good memories on which to look back. High on the list is when he helped Jesus score his 24th goal of the year to break the MCC mark for scoring.
“He’s really happy about that. He’s always thanking me for everything,” Emilio said. “He takes it personally that he couldn’t take me further (in the playoffs).”
Emilio’s next stop will be Walla Walla Community College, where he hopes to use his skills to springboard to a four-year school and someday a professional soccer career. The best news is he’ll be close enough to home to still see his brothers on a regular basis.
“They’re going to keep playing (at Pasco), and I’m going to keep practicing with them. We’re not going to stop,” he said. “I’m really excited for next year.”
Potter, the Herald coach of the year, took little credit for the rare feat of an undefeated conference season. But he was instrumental in keeping Pasco pointed in the right direction and focused on the positive during times of strife. He said he was proud of the way they were a family, and he loved the way they embraced their love of the game.
He chuckled when he thought about the team’s end-of-the-season banquet. As soon as it came to a close, his players couldn’t wait to get into their soccer gear and head back down to Edgar Brown Stadium for an impromptu pickup game.
“One day, I walked in before a game, and they were arm-wrestling. I thought that was a brilliant moment,” Potter said. “Training every day was incredible — their skill, their willingness to work very hard.”
Potter even recalled the Bulldogs’ two losses to Central Valley — one in the Class 4A regional championship and the other in the state quarterfinals — remembering them not for the fact that his team went down, but for how his players always got back up.
“Both of them were great battles,” Potter said. “We ask people to give their very best. We were helping guys off the field in both games. I’ll never forget those games.”
Meraz-Rodriguez was the only repeat selection on the first team. He was joined by four of his Pasco teammates — his brother Jesus, goalkeeper Ryan Dawson, defender Oswal Lopez and forward Hector Magana. Kennewick put two players on the first team in defender Anthony Arroyo and midfielder Armando Ponce, and Kamiakin also earned two spots in defender Andrew Scrimsher and midfielder Brandon Boehnke.
Chiawana midfielder Jose Rodriguez, Hanford forward Will Eldred, Richland defender Ryan Wolski and Othello forward Hugo Martinez each earned a first-team nod.