Southwestern High School senior soccer players Rebekah Clark and Ella Vaught first became friends way back in the fifth grade. And once they both took to the local soccer fields, they soon became BFF's (best friends forever).
"Ella (Vaught) was my very first best friend in middle school," Rebekah Clark stated. "We always hung out because of soccer, we were very close, and we were always partners in every single soccer practice drill."
But as the two young girls grew older and reached the high school level, they found themselves making newer friends and their once 'adolescent best buddies friendship' gave way to the peer pressures of the new high school setting.
"When we moved to high school we kind of drifted away a little bit, but soccer was always the one thing that kept us together and kept us close," Clark remarked. "This year we really got close again, and bonded through soccer. We have seen how much we have grown with each other in our sports. It is really amazing to see how great a person Ella has become."
But their soccer bond was disrupted when Clark went down with a season-ending injury in the first round of the 12th Region Tournament last week. And Clark's injury couldn't have come at a worst time, in the Lady Warriors' quest for soccer regional title.
And for the first time in their young lives, the two friends were not together on the soccer field in perhaps the biggest stage of their soccer careers.
"It was rough playing without Rebekah on the field with me," stated Ella Vaught. "She is like a sister to me and her energy on the field always inspired me."
The first game without Clark on the field - which came in the regional tournament semifinal game against Mercer County - the Lady Warriors seemed to struggle both emotionally and physically. Despite their best efforts, the Southwestern offense couldn't seem to score a goal in that region semifinal match. After all, Clark was the Lady Warriors' all-time career assist leader (62) and ranked as one of the top goal scorers (51) in the history of the program.
Finally, in the second overtime period - which was 89 minutes from the start of the match - Southwestern sophomore Jadyn Campbell found the back of the net for the dramatic Lady Warriors' victory.
Seconds later, a pandemonium of celebration broke out on the Boyle County High School soccer field. Several of the Lady Warriors players were piling onto the hero of the game - Jadyn Campbell - while others were hugging and screaming just 10 yards from where the ball laid in the net.
But near midfield, far removed from the massive Lady Warriors' post-game celebration, two old friends embraced in a tearful moment of solitude.
"After the game, I told her I have never seen you cry this much and we told each other how proud we were of each other, Clark stated. "I was proud of Ella for being a leader in a time that was difficult for the whole team. She really stood up and inspired them when they needed it."
And with mutual respect for her lifelong friend and teammate, Vaught told Clark they had won the game for her.
"The team did it for Rebekah, and we went out there and fought for her," Vaught stated. "Looking at her on the sidelines on crutches, during the game, made us all work harder and we all wanted to fight for her."
With tears of joy and sadness, the two BFF's were there for each other on the soccer field again.
In an emotional voice, Vaught said, "We always played great together and I just love her."
STEVE CORNELIUS is the CJ Sports Editor and can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @CJSportseditor.