In February, Jesse Klug had a decision to make.
Continue playing with the Sounders FC Academy, or play with his school-Overlake, a small, private Redmond college prep institution-for one last time.
The Bucknell-bound forward decided to wear green...but it was Overlake green, not Sounders FC green.
"It [was] my last chance to play for my school, and I really wanted to," Klug said.
And everyone at Overlake was thrilled.
"He strikes the ball better than any player I have coached," said Overlake head coach Bob Bristol. And Bristol knows a thing or two, having coached the Owls for 17 years. Overlake won a state championship in 1993, and, in the last three seasons, his squads haven't lost a single league match.
Klug made his mark on the Emerald City League as a sophomore, scoring 28 goals. That was a league record. He missed his junior senior to train with the Sounders, but came back this year and scored 39 goals-shattering his own record.
But for Klug, it wasn't about goals or records. He wanted to win a state championship. Two years ago, Overlake made it to the state championship game. However, they couldn't pull out a victory.
Overlake entered the 1A state tournament with a record of 15-0-1, with the only points lost in a 2-2 draw against league rival Seattle Academy.
Klug and his teammates opened their state campaign with a bang: he had a hat trick in Overlake's 9-0 victory. Klug had another hat trick (his ninth of the season, no less) in a 4-1 quarterfinal victory over Vashon Island.
That put the Owls into the state semifinals, a neutral-site game at Sumner's Sunset Chevrolet Stadium. That game was one week ago Friday, May 25.
That day, I was among 75 Overlake students to support our friends and classmates. But as the game started, one familiar face wasn't on the field: Jesse.
Once Jesse entered the game at roughly the 15th minute (unlimited substitutions in high school), most of us thought nothing of it. But while Jesse was still playing well, he wasn't the dominating force he had been all season.
"He was playing at about half-speed. He wasn't the explosive guy we've had all year," Bristol said.
A first-half goal for the opposition put Overlake behind for just the third time all season. As the game wore into the second half, Jesse was creating plenty of chances. But none of them had quite enough to level the game.
Until the 71st minute.
Overlake won a free kick about 10 yards outside the box, just in front of the Overlake students. Jesse stepped up, and, as we almost expected, he sent a beauty into the far corner of the net. The keeper had absolutely no chance.
That strike tied the game. And Overlake kept pushing through regulation and overtime, but couldn't find a winner. On to penalties it went.
"PKs? I hate PKs," he said after the game.
But Klug was one of four Owls to convert, and Overlake advanced to the final.
Overlake was back at it the very next day, taking on Chelan in the championship game.
Klug created four magnificent scoring opportunities, but, each time, the Chelan keeper was up to the task. The game went scoreless, so, again, to penalties.
Through three rounds of PKs, Overlake led 2-0. Make the next one, and the Owls will be celebrating with a trophy.
Up stepped Klug.
The keeper stood on his line. Jesse ran up, and fired.
The Owls were state champions.
It turns out that Jesse was suffering from pneumonia all week. But no problem, as he scored the team's lone goal and made two penalties in just over a 24 hour span.
"It couldn't have been more fitting for Jesse to walk up and take that final shot," teammate Dean Poplawski said. "He played amazing for us this year and we were so lucky to have him choose to play high school soccer for our senior season," he continued.
So even though Klug didn't choose to wear the rave green, he is certainly a Sounder at Heart.
"I feel a little bit better now."
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