Small communities around the United States are driven by particular high school sports. In Texas, it’s football. On the east coast, it’s basketball. In South Omaha, that sport is soccer.
Omaha might not seem like a hotbed for soccer, but don’t tell that to the South Omaha community. The Omaha South Packers are heading to their eighth straight appearance in the NSAA Class A Boys State Soccer Tournament, and the excitement in the community is evident.
Dave Maass, father of Omaha South head coach Joseph Maass and a member of the 1957 graduating class of Omaha South, knows how much this team means to his community.
“(The team) brings them all together,” Maass said. “Everybody comes to the games. They are packed and everybody supports them.”
Maass remembers when Omaha South won the championship in 2013 after having an undefeated regular season. The Packers beat Omaha Creighton Prep 1-0. This season, Creighton Prep is the No. 1 seed, while Omaha south is the No. 2 seed. Maass said a rematch would be highly anticipated.
“(A state championship) would mean a lot. They won in 2013, and we had 8,200 people here for that game,” Maass said. “If South and Prep make the finals here, and it’s possible, then you will have eight or nine thousand people here again.”
Maass isn’t the only member of the community paying attention to the noise that the Omaha South soccer team is making. Tom Jodlowski taught at Omaha South for 24 years and is now retired, but still comes to the Packer’s soccer games religiously.
Jodlowski hardly knew what soccer was when he started teaching at South, and still isn’t sure what he’s watching, but the effect this team has had on South Omaha is evident to him.
“They have given us a great sense of pride,” Jodlowski said. “Especially the old time graduates. Everybody in South Omaha, they love it. A state championship this year would do the same as it always did, give us lots of pride.”
Omaha South heads into the state tournament with a record of 18-2, a district championship, and a Smoky Mountain Cup title under its belt. The Smoky Mountain Cup is a soccer tournament in Tennessee composed of the best high school soccer teams from around the nation.
With all the success this team has had so far this season, fans are hopeful it will translate into success at the state tournament. The Packers opened up this year’s state tournament with a quarterfinal matchup against No. 7 seed North Platte.
The Packers were the first to get on the board as Jose Hernandez-Loarca put one right through the keeper’s hands. Emilio Margarito Romero scored six minutes later, giving the Packers a 2-0 lead. North Platte answered with a goal of its own when Ryan Letourneau scored in the final minute of the match, but it was too little too late.
Omaha South goes on to face No. 3 seeded Omaha Westside in the semifinals. This is Omaha South’s sixth appearance in the semifinals in the last seven years.