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Signing off at South High

December 09, 1999|By DAN SPEARS

Signing off at South High: Tesla steps down after 20 seasons with Rebels

When the Maryland state soccer tournament was moved to the UMBC Stadium, Mike Tesla was one of the few people that didn't put up much of a fight.

"Just making states - that would have been nice, since I work there," Tesla said. "People were saying how they didn't want to play it on turf ... I'd play in quicksand if you just would have let me be there. It just wasn't meant to be."

Tesla took 20 shots at that goal while the boys soccer coach at South Hagerstown High School. His 1999 effort, which ended on a bitterly cold November night at Boonsboro, was his last.

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Tesla has resigned as coach of the Rebels, closing the books on a lengthy run at the southside school.

"They wanted me to wait a month, then put it in writing," Tesla said. "I really didn't need that long. It wasn't just one thing, it's a bunch of things."

He broke the news soon after the team's 5-1 loss to the Warriors in the Class 1A South quarterfinals at a season-ending party. Talk about a conversation stopper.

"The hardest thing was the kids," Tesla said. "I told them then, and what was bad was ... it was dead silent after that, I didn't know how to react."

In the end, though, Tesla knows he's made the right reaction. His youngest child, daughter Brittany, is on the varsity at North Hagerstown and will be a senior next fall. His U-13 team for the Hagerstown Soccer Club, the HotSpurs, will be heading into prep play into the fall - most of them at North.

And for Tesla, things at South have turned more and more away from his favor.

"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't frustrated with things," Tesla said. "We've been begging kids to play on the JV team and we still weren't getting numbers. When you've got that, you lower your standards and tend to overlook things that were important before. I had just had enough of that."

Things were different at South, he says. His fondest memory came in 1990, when the team nearly upset Damascus in the region final.

"That maybe wasn't even our best team, but they were within two minutes of winning 1-0," Tesla said. "We got like one shot, but goalkeeper Matt St. Jean was having a great night. Then with two minutes left, Matt makes another great save, but the ball falls in front and they knock it in, and then they go on to win in overtime.

"The best team did win, but I remember after the game, he's sitting on the bench and crying and I start walking ... and I couldn't make it to him.

"To this day, I've never watched that game," Tesla said. "I saw that once; I never want to see it again."

Tesla will keep coaching the HotSpurs and is heavily involved with the Maryland State Youth Soccer Association. That, and seeing Brittany play, will help ease a different sort of pain.

"The tough part will be Aug. 15 (the first day of practice)," Tesla said. "Maybe if I go to Ocean City, it won't be so tough."

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