The Wharton Tigers’ soccer team under normal circumstances would be getting ready for the playoffs.
On Friday, March 20 the Tigers were scheduled to have their final bye as the rest of the district teams played their last game.
District 24 was set to end, but the season for the Tigers has been paused amid the COVID-19 outbreak, which has shut down athletics state-wide.
However, Wharton went into the break with them up by eight points with two games left to play. With no team that can catch them, regardless of soccer finishing the season or not, the Tigers would be crowned the outright District 24 champions.
The Tigers last season dominated District 24 play, outscoring and allowing the fewest amount of goals, but they weren't able to best the Brazosport Exporters.
"(As Ric Flair says) to be the man, you have to beat the man," Tigers coach Julio Delgado said. "We planned (at the start of district) to not only take care of all the other teams but to beat Brazosport and we did, home and away."
This year with a heavy senior class, they accomplished that goal. For the second straight season (with two games un-finished) they are leading the district in goals scored and fewest goals allowed, this time defeating the Exporters twice, earning the first-place seed whenever the playoffs start.
During district play, Wharton was only slowed once. After a tie to El Campo, it wasn’t as focused and lost to Sweeny, WHS’s only loss of the season. The Tigers regrouped and changed up the way they practiced throughout the week, making them fresher for the Saturday and Monday schedule.
"By the time the games start the kids are ready to play," Delgado said. "After we started doing things this way, we haven't lost a game."
Tigers senior striker Josue Guajardo, with one game left in district, led all players with 45 points. Guajrardo also led the district in goals with 12. Tigers freshman striker Josh Rivas is the district's second-highest point leader with 39 points.
With the Tigers rolling, they along with all spring sports now wait for the latest UIL update on when they can play again.
As of press time Friday, the UIL officials announced they still plan on finishing the rest of the athletic season, but there has been no update on when schools will be allowed to return. The UIL's website had the soccer playoffs set to begin on April 14.
No games will be played until May 4 at the earliest.
While the Tigers would like to be on the field, they and their coach understand the pause is what's needed right now.
"We can't have any practices or games (for a while) and that's good because they're trying to keep them safe," Delgado said.
Wharton last year made it to the second round of the playoffs and this season players had hopes of a state title run, with nine seniors, most of them in the starting lineup, they hope this isn't the end.
"If this was it, I'm happy we finished with the season with a district title, but we're disappointed for the seniors," Delgado said. "As a coach, I'm going to be there next year. It kills me for the seniors because they put so much effort into it and it would be very painful for me if they go out like this."
If the UIL ends up canceling the rest of the season, Delgado would like to hold a pep rally of some sort, to give recognition to his team.
Until then, athletes and coaches for soccer and every other sport sit at home wondering if and when they'll be able to play again.