Jack Flanagan could have simply called it a career.
But he wanted to be there until the end for his teammates.
Flanagan, a senior on the Franklin Towne Charter boys soccer team, was having a great year as the leader of the Warriors defense. A four-year starter, the centerback had grown into the role of team leader and calming presence on the backline. But in the team’s victory against Masterman in the semifinals of the Public League playoffs, he suffered a knee injury that probably should have ended his season. And it certainly put the wheels in motion to bring his season to a close.
“I overextended it, and I was in so much pain,” Flanagan said. “I was thinking this is the end of my season right here because it hurt so bad. But I pushed through it and finished the game. This was on a Wednesday. It felt better so I practiced Thursday, no problem, and Friday when I did the same thing, but this time it hurt 30 times worse.”
It still didn’t end his season.
Flanagan tried to tough it out in the Public League championship game but could stand the pain for only a few minutes before exiting the game for a substitute. Franklin Towne went on to lose to Northeast, and it ended up being Flanagan’s final time playing for the Warriors.
The team went on to play two more games and hung tough in both of them. The Warriors fell to Archbishop Wood 2-1 in the District 12 championship game and lost 6-0 to Lower Dauphin in a first-round Class 3A state playoff game.
Flanagan wasn’t able to play in the final two games of the season, but he remained on the sidelines to do what he did all year, offer advice and support to his teammates. And while the results weren’t what he hoped for, he couldn’t help but be proud of his teammates.
“I thought they played really well, it was hard for them, but they played great against Wood and they did good in the other game, too,” said Flanagan, who lives in Bridesburg. “I think it hurt them that I didn’t play because they had to move people around, but they were good. I think they were better than they thought they were.
“The Northeast game, I think they didn’t have the confidence, and by the time they started to play with confidence, it was too late. But they tried hard and they did really good. I’m proud of them.”
That was the type of attitude Flanagan had all season.
While he was a stout defender who also led by example on the backline, Flanagan made it his job to make sure everyone on the team was ready for games. It was a role he took quite seriously.
“We didn’t have captains, but I was one of the guys who tried to be a leader since I was a senior and I’ve been on the team for four years,” said Flanagan, who has attended Franklin Towne since he was in third grade. “When I came up, I was really young and you don’t know what you’re doing, but there were guys who were there who helped me, so I tried to do the same.”
He does that off the field, too.
Flanagan is part of the mentoring program at Franklin Towne, where he passes on advice to incoming freshmen. Since he knows his way around the school, he’s a perfect mentor.
“We’ll get three or four freshmen and you try to help them around the school,” Flanagan said. “I usually start by asking them what teachers they have and giving them advice. Some teachers are stricter than others so you let them know who they have. But every teacher here is really good, so I let them know it’ll be good.”
Flanagan will be good going forward. He first thought it wasn’t too serious, but an MRI showed he suffered a torn ACL. He has to have surgery and then will undergo physical therapy, but soon he should be as good as new.
Then he’ll figure out his next step. It may involve soccer, but he’s OK if it doesn’t.
“I definitely want to go to college and I want to stay local and live at home because it’s a lot cheaper,” Flanagan said. “I want to major in finance because there’s a lot you can do with it and I’m good with numbers. If I go to a Division III school, I’ll try to walk on, but if not, I’ll just play club or something.”
While he’s ready to hang up the cleats, he’s happy he had the opportunity to play with the Warriors.
“It’s been great,” Flanagan said. “Going to states the past two years were great because they were long bus rides and they were the best rides of the season. We made a pit stop at Burger King. It was just fun.
“Last year was the best year because on our team, the starting lineup had all but one or two guys I played with before high school. We won the Public League championship and we were all best friends. This year, too. I loved Franklin Towne.
“It was hard missing the last few games, the biggest games, but it’s better than missing the whole year. We had a really good year.”