Photos by Dianna Kogut
When the Rockwood Summit High School boys’ soccer team brought home the first Class 3 state championship in the school’s history in November, not just the boys were elated.
“This was huge, and a victory for the community, too,” said soccer head coach Chris Kappler. “The state finals are always held at Soccer Park. We got to win with a hometown audience cheering us on. It was a really happy town that night. “
The Falcons and their followers are known as the “026 Army” — a salute to Fenton’s zipcode of 63026. They beat Carthage 6-0 on Nov. 12, after having beaten Fort Zumwalt in the semifinals the day before, 2-1 in double overtime.
Coach Kappler estimates there were 2,000 people at the game. High school soccer has been part of the Rockwood Summit sports offerings since the high school opened in 1993.
“Our girls have come in second in the last two years,” he said. “Winning a state championship is so difficult. It takes a great team and a little luck, too, because you don’t know who you will be up against.”
“We’ve got a really strong program here. Many of the kids start playing as young as age 5 with the Fenton Athletic Association. They play there, and in CYC soccer [a Catholic youth soccer league] and other associations. We have three programs here at Summit: freshman, junior varsity and varsity,” he said.
It is all about good talent and good leadership, said Kappler. Tom Wade and Steve Major are his assistant coaches.
“But this year we’ve had some outstanding players,” he said. “Billy Hency, a junior, was named Missouri Player of the Year.”
That isn’t all. Hency was also named an NSCAA All American, the third person in Summit’s history to do so. He set the season’s scoring record, beating the record he set last year.
“I started playing soccer when I was 3 years old,” Hency said. “My dad has always had a passion for the game, and he passed it down to me. Winning a state championship was an amazing feeling and there is no other feeling like that.” Hency said he plans on playing college soccer, but does not yet know where.
Kappler said it is hard to go pro, even though there is a national soccer league, and people are working to build a professional soccer stadium in metro St. Louis.
“We are hoping that some of these outstanding players will get soccer scholarships, though, and get part of their college paid for,” he said. “We stress that they need to get that degree in whatever they choose, and soccer can help offset some of today’s high college costs.”
Senior Colin Hilpert set the school’s all-time assist record this year. Goalie Peter Baker set the all-time shutout record, and some think he is the best goalie Rockwood Summit has ever had. Hilpert has been playing soccer for 12 years, and has committed to play for SIU-Edwardsville next year.
“Winning the championship was an unbelievable feeling. Having waited four years to finally get to that point, it’s nice to be able to go out on top,” he said.
Peter Baker has not yet decided on a school, but knows it will involve soccer.
“I started playing, as many do, in the youth leagues at Fenton Park, and playing CYC soccer for St. Paul,” Baker said. “It meant a lot to me after playing four years of varsity, to finally accomplish what I have been working for.”
“The boys will remember this for the rest of their lives,” said Kappler. “It’s rewarding to be part of that.”