Fun ride for Callaway senior
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
It’s been a memorable four-year run for the Callaway High boys’ soccer program, and Joe Neese is glad he was along for the ride.
Neese has been a member of the varsity team since his freshman season, and he has been on the field for some special moments, including the program’s first-ever state-tournament victory in 2018.
Unfortunately for Neese, his time as a high-school soccer player came to a premature conclusion when the season was cut short because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Cavaliers had played 10games when the season was suspended, and it was later canceled.
Neese was a critical player for the Cavaliers.
As a senior with more varsity experience than anyone else on the team, Neese was selected as a team captain, and he was in the midst of a big season when everything was shut down.
In what turned out to be his final game, Neese scored two goals in a 5-2 region win over Spencer.
Mike Petite, Callaway’s head coach, appreciates everything that Neese, as well as fellow senior captain Elbin Jacob, brought to the team this season.
“Joe has done all kinds of things and played wherever I needed him to play,” Petite said. “In certain situations I needed an athlete to fill this spot, or a guy who can do this and this, and Joe is like fine I’ll go in the back. Normally he’s a goal scorer and plays up top. Plenty of times he played in the back. Elbin has done the same thing. He’s stepped up and said, hey coach, what can I do. Both of them have been great leaders.”
Neese embraced his role this season.
He remembers looking up to the seniors during previous seasons, and this spring he was the one taking on those leadership responsibilities.
“I loved it,” Neese said. “Through my whole soccer career, I’ve always looked up to the people above me. It was very fun to be in that position, and have guys look up to you, and respect you. It was a fun experience.”
Neese was a part-time varsity contributor on a 2017 team that had a winning record while reaching the Class AA state playoffs.
Neese’s role expanded during his sophomore season, and that was a memorable spring for the Cavaliers.
Callaway shared the Region 5-AA championship before beating Douglass-Atlanta 8-0 for the first state-tournament win in the history of the program.
Callaway lost to Model in the second round of the state tournament.
“That year we had 10, or 11 seniors. That was with Grayson Lambert, and Wes Brooks, Ian Bryan and all those guys,” Neese said. “It didn’t matter who you passed to, and everybody was good. That was one of the most fun years I’ve ever had.”
Despite losing all of those seniors, Callaway reached the state tournament again in 2019.
Neese is part of a senior class that includes Elbin Jacob, Tyson Harr, Neal Ellison, Zach Wylie, Taylor Hardy, Calik Kemp, and Elton Rubio.
For Neese, being a part of the Callaway soccer family has been about a lot more than just playing the sport.
“The good thing about it was, we didn’t hang out just on the field or at practice,” Neese said. “We were hanging out on the weekends, or going to eat together. It was more of a family feel.”