Months have passed since their teammate and his younger brother were killed in a late night car crash. Sadness lingers, of course, but remembering Roan Sanders now as Sayre’s boys’ soccer team plays what would have been his senior season also calls to mind the teammate he was, the example he set and the fun they had.
“He had such a funny persona. He was kind of a goofball, cracking up, but you couldn’t really ever stay mad at him, because he had this big grin, because he just loved being out here. He loved playing with his friends,” Sayre Coach Joseph Porter said before a practice last week. “I told somebody one time I never had a player that you could get so mad at and laugh with at the exact same time. We miss that personality, that sort of big personality that he brought. He was a good friend to everybody.”
Sayre’s scoreboard Thursday didn’t carry the result they wanted, a 5-0 loss to a very good Great Crossing team. But their home opener was always going to be about more than the game.
Marching from their locker room, the Spartans carried Sanders’ No. 11 jersey to the field and hung it in their bench dugout before holding a moment of silence for him.
Sayre then started the game one player down. Taking the kickoff, Sayre played the ball immediately to the Warhawks who then played the ball out so the substitution could come on.
“Roan was one of the biggest competitors I’ve ever played with, so I feel like the best way to honor him is to go out on the field and give it our all every game,” senior Trey Atkins said last week. “I’m sure when he’s watching down over us, he’ll be proud.”
Four Great Crossing players played with Sanders at Lexington F.C.
“For me, personally, (the tribute) touched me,” Great Crossing’s Trey Dice said. “He should be out here playing with us and against us, but he was unfortunately taken from us.”
“Roan had a huge impact on everybody, not just his soccer school. I thought it was well-deserved,” said GC’s Max Agruna of Thursday’s tribute.
The Spartans boys’ and girls’ soccer teams also will honor Sanders with a black armband bearing his initials all season.
After Thursday’s tribute, Porter said he thought the team played tight for a bit but then settled into the game and played well for large segments.
“I told them (whatever the score), let’s not worry about that. Let’s improve,” Porter said..
Sanders had been a central figure of the soccer Spartans during his career, generating goals and notching assists in each of his three varsity seasons. He also played basketball. The soccer team has had time to mourn since Sanders’ and his brother Neo’s deaths in February. There was still the matter of starting practice this summer without him.
“For a lot of them just getting back out on the field — they’re excited to be out there and be playing whether it’s in honor of him or they just want to play with the same joy that he had when he played,” Porter said last week. “You can tell there’s a sense about them that they think about it every so often … but it’s been a great group of guys and their attitude and their focus has been really good, considering.”
Sayre also plans an annual soccer event in Sanders’ name. This year, Sayre’s game against Paris on Aug. 19 will be called the Roan Sanders Memorial Showcase. Porter says they hope to make it a multi-game event in the future.
“We wanted to find a way to honor him and remember him for the great kid and the great player that he was on and off the field, and not let it be a shadow hanging over us, but rather be a light about how we can be as people and as players,” Porter said.