Malibu High Sharks boys soccer player Hunter Shanahan has played soccer with the same group of guys since he was a youngster.
The 17-year-old senior and notable Tottenham Hotspur F.C. fan celebrated scoring kicks, tournament wins, and more on the pitch with classmates Danner Rondell, Drake Dejute-Erickson, Lleyton Osborn, Luke Levin, Matthew Tarnay, Morgan Feig and Phurit Saribut from their days playing AYSO soccer to playing matches on the Malibu High field.
“We have gone through multiple years of soccer together,” Shanahan, a striker, said. “We are almost like a family. We know each other so well. We are all good friends who’ve known each other for 13 years.”
Their time together on the soccer field ended — at least in an official fashion — last month. The Sharks soccer season ended on Feb. 5 with a 1-0 loss to Fillmore.
When reminiscing about the years the seven spent together, Dejute-Erickson called it special.
“I’ve played soccer with them forever, said the 17-year-old defender. “It’s one of those special things we have together. Soccer has been such a passion for me and being about to share that passion with others who are as passionate about it as me is something that is nice to be part of.”
Malibu finished its heavily COVID-19 effected season with a 3-12-3 record. Despite the team’s record, Hunter’s mom, Melissa, said the Sharks, spearheaded by the seniors, were a special group that deserved to be celebrated. She said the squad worked hard and was determined.
That drive for success began in youth soccer, and it paid off early on. The high school seniors were tykes when they first won the AYSO’s Section 10 area tournament in Moorpark to earn a bid in a regional tournament in Bakersfield.
In fact, one of Shanahan’s earliest soccer memories is he and his classmates qualifying for the tournament that is two hours away.
“We to the finals in Bakersfield against teams that were really impressive,” he said. “We made it much further than everyone expected us to.”
Most of the seniors began playing at age 5. The trips to Bakersfield became an annual thing, but a significant trip was when the group made the over 100-mile trek to the tournament a couple of days after the first spark of the Woolsey Fire in November 2018.
The players and their families evacuated Malibu on Nov. 9, with the tournament set to begin on Nov. 10. Since hotels in surrounding cities were filled to the brim, some of the team’s families decided to soldier on to Bakersfield because their hotel rooms were already booked.
Hunter’s mother said the players played well despite the strenuous situation in Malibu and won their division at the event.
“Our boys preserved under the harshest of situations,” Melissa said. “It was so meaningful and bonding for these boys to accomplish that. It showed focus, determination, tenacity, and true grit.”
Dejute-Erickson, who has played soccer since he was 10, said this season was tough for Sharks because of injuries and COVID-caused rescheduling of games — Malibu had to play four contests in a week once during its condensed November to early February schedule — but he said the squad stepped up to the plate just like the seniors died after the Woolsey Fire caused so much damage.
The team’s captain, Dejute-Erickson said the Sharks were serious about their sport.
“When I would try to invigorate the team, I’d feel the reciprocating passion,” he said. “That was inspiring to be part of. It’s something that isn’t applicable for every team, but for us it was really special”
Shanahan led Malibu with eight goals this season. Feig recorded six and Rondell scored two. Romane Foulquier-Gazagnes led the team in assists with five, and Osborn and Brian Perez had two.
Malibu opened the season with a 3-1 victory over Buckley. Their second triumph was a 4-0 whooping of Villanova Prep on Nov. 23. The Sharks defeated Nordoff 2-1 on Jan. 19.
However, those wins might not be Malibu’s best performances this season.
Instead, Shanahan said, Malibu’s best game was 0-0 tie on Dec. 10 with a talented Calabasas team that advanced to the second round of the CIF Southern Section Division 2 Championships last month.
“We were able to get a few shots off against them, which was pretty cool,” he said. “It gave us a confidence boost.”
Dejute-Erickson said the Sharks communicated great on defense that game.
“When we are defending it has to be a team effort,” he said. “If someone slips up it could lead to a goal. That’s what you play for, and then everything kind of clicks. It is something really special. It’s something you look forward to when playing.”
Malibu had their team banquet and award ceremony on Feb. 22. It will be the last time the seniors are together in an official team setting, although some of them play pickup soccer together.
Shanahan said the season was fun.
“It was a great bonding experience,” he said.
Dejute-Erickson said he will cherish the memories of the team’s bus rides together.
“Talking with each other and kidding around,” he said. “There was a sense of comfortability with everyone on the team. It was nice coming together.”