The once-dominant Coppell
boys soccer program had gone five seasons without a state tournament appearance when Chad Rakestraw agreed to become Coppell boys soccer head coach two years ago.
The new coach was sure that it wasn‘t a lack of talent that had been holding the team back from the level of success the Cowboys enjoyed when they made five state tournaments in eight years from 1999 to 2006.
The way Rakestraw saw it, one issue was to get those talented players to come together as a unit. And in matches against elite opponents, could the coach instill a mental toughness that would carry the Cowboys to victory?
The answer was emphatically delivered in Saturday's Class 5A state championship game in Georgetown, when Coppell scored a goal in the final four minutes to force extra time with Hanna (Brownsville) and another with a minute remaining in overtime for a 3-2 victory.
For leading the Cowboys to their first state title since 2004, Rakestraw was selected as the Dallas High Yield Coach of the Week presented by Capital One Bank.
Coppell's clutch final two goals were supplied by junior Chris Madden
. The tying goal came on a searing free kick that ended in the upper corner of the net.
"I don't know that I've seen a better goal than the one Chris scored that put it into overtime, considering the situation and everything,'' Rakestraw said. "And then the goal he scored to win it was the cherry on top.''
Madden's final strike meant that the title wouldn't be decided on an always-dicey shootout.
To win the state title, Coppell (23-2) had to survive seven playoff matches.
"Against the caliber of teams we faced, seven playoff wins is very tough when it just takes one moment for things to go the other way,'' Rakestraw said.
To help inspire more team play and develop mental toughness, the coach created leadership classes and spent time talking to his players about how to handle situations that arise in tight matches.
"The feeling of seeing the joy on the faces of our players after the final whistle, knowing that their hard work had paid off, was something I'll remember,'' the coach said.
In Rakestraw's words, the bus ride back to Coppell "was pure joy'' with lots of singing.
"They were enjoying that last bus ride together,'' the coach said.
Coppell's Drake Lovelady opened the scoring 18 minutes into the title match. Hanna (26-2-3) stormed back with a pair of goals in a three-minute window of the second half for a 2-1 lead. The state title was slipping away, but the match-toughened Cowboys found inspiration at the right time.
Rakestraw once was a member of a state championship team, in football, at Ryan (Denton). He also excelled in soccer. After graduating from Midwestern State, Rakestraw spent three years as assistant soccer coach at Guyer (Denton)
. His first head coaching opportunity came at Northwest (Justin)
, where he spent two seasons before coming to Coppell.
"The program at Coppell had a great tradition,'' Rakestraw said.
Indeed, the Cowboys were making their sixth state tournament appearance in the last 15 years, but their first since 2006.
"Great players don't always equate to wins,'' the coach said. "Players have to care more about team success than that of the individual.''
Coppell posted 13 shutouts this season, including a 2-0 triumph over Kingwood (Humble) in a state semifinal.
The Cowboys avenged their only regular-season loss to a Texas team, 1-0 to Marcus (Flower Mound) by returning the favor against Marcus by the same score in the Region I championship match.
Florida's Montverde Academy handed Coppell its only other loss, 2-0, in the Cowboys' second match of the season.
Rakestraw, 30, and wife Shelley have two children, Madison, 3, and Kamryn, 2.