Owen Stock would love to tell you just how he helped bring home a championship.
He’d love to tell you how his Archbishop Ryan High School soccer team brought home its first Catholic League championship in nearly two decades a little more than 51 weeks ago.
He’d love to tell you what they did to beat the Crusaders, how good it felt and all of the other emotions that he went through during that game at Northeast High School.
To him, it’s tough to recall.
“Honestly what do I remember?” asked Stock, a four-year starter on the defensive side of the field. “Not much. You kind of black it out. I remember all the people being around us, but I remember making sure I only worry about the 22 people on the field. I know it was exciting, but I was so focused on soccer, I don’t remember much about the game at all.”
Don’t worry, Stock, another win and you’ll be right back where you were last year.
Behind a strong defense led by Stock, the Raiders downed Lansdale Catholic 1-0 in double overtime in a first-round Catholic League playoff game.
The Raiders now move on to face a familiar opponent, La Salle, the same team Ryan defeated in the semifinals a year ago. The game will be played as part of a doubleheader Wednesday at Ramp Playground. The Raiders will play in the second half of the twinbill. The first game will be Archbishop Wood taking on top-seeded Father Judge, which plowed through St. Joe’s Prep 3-0 in its quarterfinal. That game is set for 4 p.m.
Before the Crusaders and Raiders can have a repeat of last year’s all-time classic in front of an overflow crowd, they each have to win Wednesday. The winners of those games will play for the championship next weekend at Northeast.
Stock knew this year would be tough.
Ryan still has some key players from last year’s team, but it also saw some of its best players graduate. Those departures set the stage for Stock to do what he’s doing this year.
“I think the biggest difference for me is last year, we had a lot of good seniors,” Stock said. “We had a lot of players that I looked up to. This year, I knew those guys were going to be gone, so I had to be a leader. I had to accept more responsibility and show the other guys what those guys showed me.
“I felt like I was ready. I knew leading up to the season that I had to take on the role. Coach (Ryan) Haney kind of gestured it toward me, but I knew for myself that I had to do it.”
Stock was more than prepared.
He’s been a key member of the team since he arrived freshman year, and since then, the Raiders have enjoyed a lot of success.
His first year, Ryan advanced to the state semifinals. That season, there was no Catholic League championship because of the pandemic. Last year, he won the championship and a game in the state tournament.
Overall, Ryan has advanced to the Catholic League semifinals three out of the past four years the playoffs were contested. That’s not an easy accomplishment in the PCL.
“The Catholic League is very aggressive and very competitive,” Stock said. “You have to be a man in that league, you have to be strong, you have to play hard.
“And every team is tough. If anything, if they’re not the best, they will come at you hard and strong and you have to be prepared. You have to play with heart, and we carry that on from (when we had teams that weren’t as talented). We brought talent into it, but we still play with heart. We have a mixture of both on this team.”
That’s one of the main reasons Stock is heading into the Catholic League semifinals so confident.
Ryan does have a young team, and Haney will be relying on a lot of those young players to help them get back to where they were a season ago. But Stock isn’t worried. They might be young, but these guys can play.
“I honestly expected a great regular season even though we were young,” Stock said. “I think we have a lot of talent. We played even better soccer than we did last year. This year we’ve had some injuries, we lost our center mid, he was a huge part of the team. Filling in his shoes hasn’t been easy. But when I look at the sidelines, he’s always there for us, so we play for him. We’re here for him and he’s here for us.
“That’s why it’s good we had a tough game. Last night’s game was tough. We beat Lansdale 3-0 during the season, but we knew they were tough and they were.
“They did a good job of giving us a good game. We have younger guys on the team, it was important for them to realize playoffs is a different game. It doesn’t matter who you play, for a lot of people it could be their last game. I play hard for those guys, it’s very important.”
That won’t be the case for Stock.
After this year, he’ll play in college. Though he’s unsure what he’ll study, he’s thinking about business, financial marketing.
But before that, he has some big soccer games ahead of him. Not only does he want to go out on top, he wants to cherish every moment he has with his team.
“I’m really happy with the season so far,” he said. “The young guys are doing great, we had a freshman score the game winner last night. It helps me work with them, there’s times I want to yell but I think to myself I was a freshman at one point. You get nervous. Instead I’ll talk to them, let them know nothing to be nervous about. It’s just a game.
“When you’re in the playoffs, every game is big and every game can be your last one. I love this team, and we’ll play as hard as we can to keep playing.”