Kai and Maddox Rosser trusted each other. And then they trusted the process.
It’s a common sports term thrown around South Philly these days, but the two brothers made a great example of it in winning a very special championship together.
The Rossers, who live in Packer Park, attend school and play soccer for the Julia R. Masterman Laboratory and Demonstration School on Spring Garden Street. Last week, they helped the Dragons capture the first Public League title in boys soccer in the school’s history.
“It was very emotional for the guys in my grade and the coaches that have been at the school for many years,” said Kai, a junior center midfielder. “I thought we were going to be good, but I didn’t think we were going to win the Public League.”
The Dragons hit a few bumps on the road in the regular season, and ended up as the fifth seed in the Public League playoffs. What the rest of the league didn’t know was Masterman had hit its stride.
“It was the first time a team won the Public League without having a first-round bye,” Masterman coach Tyler Weiss said. “We were still learning each other and new tactics. There were growing pains. We lost an all-state striker in the third game and we had to figure out how to get goals. The boys were able to adapt.”
In the playoffs, the Dragons defeated John Bartram, 2-1, and avenged regular season losses to Franklin Towne Charter (1-0) before taking down Central in the semifinals in penalty kicks. Kai converted the third PK to help Masterman win 4-2 in PKs (1-1 regulation) and secure a spot in the finals.
“That was the most stressful moment of my life even though I didn’t take a penalty,” said Maddox, who is a freshman starting wingback.
His brother, and the upperclassmen felt a bit of nerves, too.
“The juniors on the team were saying this is the craziest sports game they’ve ever played in any sport,” Kai said. “It was very stressful. Going in to play our rival under the lights with all the fans in the stadium. It was pretty nice to win that.”
The confidence was brewing in the penalties. It’s something the Dragons practice often.
“It was a great feeling because if you miss a penalty, it really sets you back,” Kai said. “But we practiced them all the time and our goalie stepped up and got us the win.”
Next up was Abraham Lincoln in the championship game and again Masterman had to work extra, winning 2-1 in double overtime. The Dragons trailed 1-0 midway through the second half before tying it up and sending it into extra time. “Once we were down I thought it was over,” Maddox said. “But it was a lucky goal they got so we still had a chance. We stayed with it.”
Senior captain Ben Steketee scored the goal in double overtime and the Dragons celebrated their first PPL title, finally getting over the hump after a 5-0 loss to Northeast in last year’s championship game.
For the Rosser brothers, it first came down to trusting each other on the field. They had played together at Southeast Youth Athletic Association in South Philly, but high school ball was a new animal.
“It’s nice because you can trust him with the ball and you can trust that he won’t lose it,” Kai said of his freshman brother. “He’ll do something good with it. It’s nice having him there.”
Then they needed to trust their coach. Weiss arrived after helping Camp Hill High School win back-to-back state championships as an assistant coach. His first impression didn’t go over too well with the players at Masterman.
“The first day he met us, he made us run more than I’ve ever run before,” Maddox said. “We didn’t really like him. I don’t think anyone would. But as the season went on, it got better. We still ran just as much, but we got to know him better.”
Then the wins started piling up.
“We started to trust him and we trusted his system,” Kai said. “We saw that the results were coming and we kept going at it.
It all resulted in a beautiful moment for two South Philly brothers on the soccer pitch.
“When we scored the winning goal, everyone ran to the guy who scored it,” Weiss said. “Kai ran to Maddox. It was a really lovely moment.”