It is time to throw away the American inferiority complex with its place in the sport, where many blindly claim that technique should come above all in choosing and developing the best prospects and that the U.S. is not an international power because it cares too much about athleticism.
How Maize South & Rey Ramirez Are Setting New Standards for Wichita Area High School Soccer
Since Kansas High school Boys soccer started in 1986, here is the list of Wichita area schools to have reached four or more state finals:
- Maize South, Wichita Northwest, Wichita Trinity Academy, and Rose Hill.
Here is the list of Wichita area schools to win a state championship by winning every single game of the season since 2000:
- Maize South, Wichita Northwest.
Here is the list of Wichita area schools to reach four finals in five years:
- Maize South.
We could continue with lists like that, and you'll quickly find that the common denominator is Maize South and head coach Rey Ramirez. For a program that started in 2009 and a head coach that took over in 2012, making it his first high school coaching job, the team has reached unprecedented heights that have reshaped the standards of what is possible for schools in the Wichita area.
No school from the Wichita area has been consistently dominant enough to reach four state finals in five years in any classification. That kind of extended superiority was thought to be exclusive to Kansas City area schools like Bishop Miege, which is currently on a run of 7 straight state 4A championships. Or like the Blue Valley Southwest team Maize South defeated in the final, which is currently on a run of six finals and four championships in seven years. Or like the St. Thomas Aquinas team Maize South defeated in the semi-final, which once won 8 straight state championships between 2003-2010.
Wichita area schools are not supposed to reach the final consistently, and when they do, it's supposed to be because of a rare class of players that will see the school return to normalcy once they graduate.
Rey Ramirez, the National High School coach of the year, and Maize South are rewriting that story.
The most remarkable part of the run of 4 state championship finals in 5 years is that the first was in 2018, meaning none of the members of that initial final were on the roster for this undefeated season.
That is what it means to have built a sustainable culture of winning. The expectations are the same regardless of who puts on the Maize South jersey. As Coach Rey Ramirez stated:
"Everyone wants to win. Everyone wants to be a champion. All players say what they want. But few are actually willing to do what it takes to prepare. Few players have the necessary discipline to set themselves up for success. The choice is yours."
A clear message that sets the tone for the culture that has allowed the program to succeed. And behind that culture is a coaching staff and a Maize South community that pours their love and support into the team. Successful programs are often family-driven, and Maize South is no different. Coach Ramirez said as much when asked what the main factor to their sustained success was.
"It always comes down to the boys on the field for me. The boys that commit so much of their lives to our program. The families that dedicate all that they can to help our program succeed. We have an incredible soccer community, and the support from them all here at Maize South is special."
One example of this extensive support system is with the Bowmans, a family whose story will forever be entrenched in the Maize South story. The connection started with Bryce Bowman, who was a senior and one of the stars on the 2018 team that reached the school's first state championship final. Bowman was one of two first-team all-state players on the rosters that year and went on to play at the collegiate level.
His high school career ended in a loss in the state final to Blue Valley Southwest, all while his little brother, Gavin Bowman, an 8th grader in the Maize school system, watched on, salivating at the chance of one day getting the same opportunity in the same uniform.
Fast forward, and it is that little brother, now turned star senior, who helped Maize South to their first-ever state championship with a 3-0 victory over the same Blue Valley Southwest school. And for good measure, he was also recognized as a first-team all-state player. Recollecting what it was like watching his younger brother achieve something he fell just short of, Bryce remarked:
"It had been a long time coming, and watching my brother, Gavin, play was a moment that will never be forgotten. I've had the privilege of watching Gavin and so many of his teammates grow up into the player I wish I could have been. Watching them win the state game was a great feeling and experience."
Another one of those players who watched on as a middle schooler is star player Vitor Geromel, who stands as one of the best players Wichita has ever produced. The Clemson commit and still junior in high school remembers the excitement of watching those early Maize South teams reach the state final, knowing he would be going to a school with great expectations and standards.
"I knew that going into high school, I'd have an opportunity with the great class of players we have to play for a state championship."
Vitor broke the single-season record with 42 goals, tied the assists record with 18, was named the state midfielder of the year, and an All-American. But when asked what his goals were for his senior season, he made no mention of any individual statistics or accomplishments.
"Senior year, my only goal is to win another state championship. We're going to be completely focused on repeating."
The kind of leadership that explains why Vitor was trusted as a captain and leader as a junior and why coach Ramirez believes he may be the best player he has coached so far.
"His maturity, work ethic, commitment to his teammates, and relentless drive to succeed are what make him special. No one puts in more time into his training and development than he does, and I mean no one."
And while players like Vitor may come once in a generation, the standards he has helped set are the norm for Maize South. It's why despite graduating other star players like senior Junior Quezada, who won state forward of the year, Andrew Cole, who won state goalkeeper of the year, and Gavin Bowman, among others, the culture remains the same.
Maize South will return Caden Wait, the reigning state defender of the year, and Miles Edwards, a dynamic midfielder and first-team all-state nominee. And some other pieces, such as Dylan Gorman, a junior center back who started through the season, Danny Derath, a sophomore who popped up with key goals, Declan Caley, another sophomore who added multiple goals, and Nick Emes, a junior who helped orchestrate one of the most potent offenses in Kansas history.
I promise you, this is one of the most insane assists leading up to a goal you’ll ever see in high school soccer. @MilesEdwards20 to @VitorGeromel! @SportsCenter @KAKEsports @KWCHMatt @tayloreldridge @sportsinkansas @WichitaEagleSpt #MaizeSouthSoccer pic.twitter.com/FYAOlhdT3b— Taylor Vonfeldt (@therealskicast) October 21, 2022
The foundation is there, and Rey Ramirez is hoping it'll spur high schools in the Wichita area to more consistent competition at the state level.
"I hope it gives the wider Wichita community a sense of belief in itself. We really can compete at the top level here in Kansas. We have quality, talent, and tremendous coaches in our area- we just have to really believe in ourselves."
Bryce Bowman echoed those same feelings,
"Kansas-City has always had the best competition. They play teams year around with Division 1 talent, but I truly believe this year was a turning point. Wichita will be winning more championships in the years to come. The talent coming out of Wichita is just as good as Kansas-City."
And although he has aspirations to one day coach at the collegiate level, for now Coach Ramirez loves the experience at Maize South. "I am extremely happy coaching at Maize South. We have great school leadership and tremendous leadership from our athletic director . . . I have many freshmen players that I'm excited about, and I've met many middle school kids through our summer soccer camps as well. I'm excited as ever about what the future holds for Maize South soccer."
Nobody knows what the future holds, but we can say in the present, led by Rey Ramirez, Maize South has reshaped what the expectations are for a Wichita area school in high school soccer.
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