High school soccer returns to Chester after 30-year drought

The Chester High School soccer team takes the field for their first home game in over 30 years. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Chester High School soccer team takes the field for their first home game in over 30 years. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

After 30 years, two road games, and a weather cancellation, Chester High School in Delaware County finally hosted its first high school soccer game.

Rain couldn’t stop Tuesday’s game. The sky drizzled, but the beats from the DJ, the smoke, and the excitement poured as the Chester Clippers took to the field for the first time in decades.

The Clippers got a professional-style entrance onto the field at the STEM Academy at Showalter, wearing their orange and black uniforms. It was reminiscent of their June debut, when the Philadelphia Union announced they would help fund a new soccer program for the Chester-Upland School District.

Andre Moore, the district’s athletic director, was excited to give students another activity because “everyone can’t play basketball and football.”

He praised the Union for its support in bringing the program back.

“Whatever they needed, they were there to provide for us,” he said. “They were just as excited as we are.”

Chester High School students play their first home soccer game in over 30 years, facing Penn Wood High School. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The students couldn’t wait.

“They’ve been knocking on my door constantly for the last two years, ‘Mr. Moore, we need soccer, we need soccer;’ now we have soccer,” he said.

The theme of excitement indeed continued with the players who admitted they wanted to enact some type of revenge on their opponents, the Penn Wood Patriots. They were the first school the new Clippers team faced and lost to earlier this season.

“We ready for them,” said Marquan Jones who plays right midfield for the team. “We’re going to play smart, play right — teamwork.”

“We’re going to play our hardest,” a teammate chimed in.

Philadelphia Union representatives and Chester High School soccer fans cheer during the first Chester home game in over 30 years. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

While the day was about celebration, it took work to revive something that has been gone for 30 years.

“With every year that something remains cut, it gets more and more expensive and more and more challenging and difficult to put it back in there,” said Paul Howard, executive director of the Union’s nonprofit foundation.

Howard pointed to the “cabbage patch” field as an example of what had to be done to get things ready for soccer.

“We had a real expert come in and treat it and seed it and mow it and get it to the condition that it’s in now,” he said. “Mother nature [has] not been the kindest to us, but it’s going to get even better as the seasons progress.”

Juan Baugh, Superintendent of Chester Upland School District, introduces the Chester High School soccer team on their new field. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The game was originally scheduled for Oct. 16, but was cancelled due to heavy rain.

The drizzle on Tuesday stopped as the game began, but moderate rain fell during the second half.

The rain did not stop the game or dampen spirits. Those spirits remained high despite the 8-2 defeat Clippers suffered against the Patriots.

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