VARNELL — Coahulla Creek High School soccer coach Aurelio Jacobo clenched his left fist Tuesday night. But, it wasn't out of anger.
By the time the Colts had secured their spot in the Class 3A state championship, Jacobo looked down to his happy surprise and saw his wedding band. A symbol of just how far his team has come, Jacobo wore the ring for the first time in a game since the Colts' win in the region championship on April 16 — the same day he temporarily lost the ring in the midst of celebration.
"Every time they throw the water on me, I close my hand out of instinct," Jacobo said. "It's a pretty heavy ring and when it gets wet, it can slip off easily.
"My wife has been so supportive throughout this entire season and I wanted to wear it today to show her and everyone just how much this means to us."
Coahulla Creek plays in its first soccer state championship later this week following a 2-1 win over Benedictine Tuesday night in the semifinals. The Colts face Westminster on either Friday or Saturday, with the game day, time and location to be determined. The game will be either at Mercer University in Macon or McEachern High School in Powder Springs.
Coahulla Creek scored first Tuesday night after adjusting without standout striker Francisco Medina following a red card in the Elite Eight. Media, who led the team with 51 goals this season, will be out again for the state title game. The Colts were able to keep control and found an opening for Jaime Mendiola with a little more than seven minutes remaining in the first half.
Coahulla Creek held possession for the majority of the first half, but Benedictine responded with two minutes until halftime to tie the game at 1.
With suspense building, the game stayed tied until Emmanuel Arredondo scored what would be the winning goal for Coahulla Creek with five minutes left in the game.
"It was pure teamwork," Arredondo said. "I give it all to the boys. If it wasn't for them, that goal would have never happened. Honestly, this is an unbelievable feeling. I am so amazed and speechless."
The Colts held their own for the final minutes until the clock struck zero. Jacobo was soaked with an cooler of ice water, and of course, he still had his wedding ring.
Now, he and the Colts are one game away from claiming rings for the entire team.
"I am so super proud of them," Jacobo said with tears in his eyes. "It gets to the moment where all the positive reinforcement is working and they are following along. That's what I love, that they are working as a team — it's just a really good feeling."
Wherever they play for the title, Jacobo knows his wife Ashley and 5-month-old boy Aiden will be there cheering him on.
"She's here and it means everything" he said. "And she'll be there, too."