For anyone who knows Jefferson boys’ soccer Coach Sean Burke, the image on the back of the bright orange shirts that his players don on game days is unmistakable.
It’s Burke’s face. Well, a cartoon version at least. And maybe not everyone thinks it’s the most accurate depiction.
“They showed me the picture and I said it was okay,” said Burke, a two-time All-Met Coach of the Year. “And then I saw the shirts and I said that even makes Frankenstein look good.”
Choosing that image for their game day shirts was about more than showcasing their coach’s distinctive face, though. Perhaps more than any other program, Jefferson’s teams have long taken on Burke’s attitude on the field.
A school known for academics, not necessarily athletics, is the underdog no matter what. The Colonials are consistently a scrappy team that outworks its opponents and jumps on opportunity. They embraced that persona on a run to a Virginia AAA title in 2007, and did so again on Thursday against No. 2 Langley in a 2-0 win on senior night.
Jefferson (5-1-6, 4-1-1 AAA Liberty) dominated the game for the first 50 minutes in Alexandria, then survived the last half hour, packing it in and defending with will as much as anything else. Bodies were strewn across the goal box on every Langley shot as if it was the Washington Capitals-New York Rangers playoff series during a key power play.
“We always play up the level because Coach Burke makes it known that we’re below every team we go against,” senior goalkeeper Alex Park said. “We have the mentality going in that we’re the underdogs, that they’re going to outrun us, have a better touch than us, put balls over the top and give us a hard time. The mentality at the end of the day is we’ve got to fight. And it’s something more than skill and something more than talent. It’s hard work.”
Pedram Pejman doubled the lead in the 44th minute on a far post shot from 25 yards out. In the final 30 minutes, though, Langley (8-2-1, 3-1-1) was pressing hard. The Saxons hit the crossbar twice and the post another time, and another great opportunity went just over the bar.
As usual, though, Jefferson found a way to scrap out a result. And with another win, the Colonials could be celebrating a district title. In that case, maybe a new iteration of the Burke shirts is in order. After all, he couldn’t have hated them that much, right?
“I mean,” Pejman said, “he’s got to love them.”