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Gee, FHHS Soccer Team making their mark

Michael Gee, Head Coach of the Men’s Soccer Team at Forest Hills High School, said that he had high expectations of his team this season, but he admits, they’re doing even better than he expected.

Gee knew that his guys would be strong in the Rocky River 2A conference, but he knew his non-conference schedule was brutal. He told himself that if they went .500 in those first few games when they played Ledford, Salisbury, Lake Norman Charter, Concord, and all those teams, he’d feel good about this team, and they did better than that.

FHHS men's soccer team He said, “ the conference part, I felt that we’re exactly where we should be. Pre-conference and all those other out-of-conference games, we exceeded what I thought we could do.”  This season, they are undefeated in the conference and 21-3 overall. 

The Yellow Jackets are Rocky River conference champions for the fourth consecutive year and had six players named All-Conference. They are: Gerardo Castillo, Jamarcus Timmons, Alex Gonzales, Oscar Hernandez, Cristian Sanchez, and Adolfo Castrejon. Gerardo Castillo was named the RRC Player of the Year, and Coach Michael Gee was named RRC Coach of the Year.

Gee, a math teacher, has coached soccer for seven years at Forest Hills, beginning as an assistant coach for the men’s and women’s teams. This is Gee’s third season as head coach, and in three seasons, the men’s team is 28-2 in conference play. His first year as head coach, the team was undefeated in the conference, then lost two conference games last year, but went undefeated in conference play again this season.

Asked to describe himself as a coach, Gee spoke about respect. “I think I build a good relationship,” he said. “...They can come at me with anything, and I won’t take it personally. I’m open to suggestions, and I’m hard on them. I yell a lot at them, but it’s not because I hate them, it's because they’re either making the same mistakes over and over again or just so they can hear me. I want to say it’s definitely a coach-player thing, but there’s a ton of respect there - that is the main thing. If you don’t respect the players and the players don’t respect you as a coach… It’s tough to motivate the boys. So I think there’s a general, mutual respect there that we both share for each other. And not to mention that they WANT to do good! They believe and they trust that I know what I’m talking about. So it’s that kind of thing, it’s more of a, I don’t want to say it’s adversarial, but we both know our positions as a team and as a coach, and we respect that. We do what we need to do to take care of that.”

Thinking about how the team has changed during his time coaching, Gee said, “I think when I first started coaching, ...we’ve always had the talent here at Forest Hills, but I don’t know if we were a team. We had individual players that could do a lot, and every once in a while they would look great, but as a unit, as an entire team, it wasn’t there. And I think that somewhere along the line, these last three, four, five years even (because we’re talking about 4 years in a row winning conferences), we became a team. We’re not a pocket of individuals - two, three guys doing their own thing together, this guy doing his own thing during a game time. We’re all working together, and we all kind of know what they’re supposed to do and how they’re supposed to do stuff. So, the culture of being a team and not a culture of me and my friends.” 

That culture of respect and teamwork is definitely working for the Yellow Jackets. Gee and his players are looking to head deep into the state playoffs. Last year, they made it to the third round for the first time in team history. Gee believes they can go even further this season. He said, “I like our draw in the playoffs. Really I think we should definitely get to the fourth round based on who we could end up facing (a fourth-round rematch with Hibriten would be great) but again (Assistant Coach Ricky) Williams asked me, and said ‘Do you think we have what it takes to go far?’ and I said ‘Yeah!’ A lot of times you hear this phrase ‘defense wins championships,’ and our defense is pretty, pretty stout. So we can score goals, - we don’t score a crazy ton of them - but we do keep people from scoring goals, and that can win you a game. I’m looking, in all honesty, fifth-round if not even state championship, at that level. That’s where I see us being able to go.”

The Yellow Jackets won their first, second, and third round state playoff games at home, 6-2 over Lake Norman Charter, 8-0 over West Stanly, and 3-0 over Surry Central. For the fourth round, they traveled to Hibriten on Sat., Nov. 16. This was a rematch of their third-round matchup from last season. The Jackets played a great game, and the score was tied 0-0 at the half, but Hibriten ended up winning 1-0.

The Yellow Jackets had an amazing season, making it to the fourth round of the playoffs for the first time in team history. As Forest Hills principal, Dr. Kevin Plue, said, "We are so proud of the soccer team, not just because they won a lot of games, but for how they did it. They always showed great sportsmanship..." The team continues to grow and to exceed their previous accomplishments, so there are more great seasons ahead.

Interview by Georgia Plue