MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
The base youth soccer team scored their first goal during a match against the Ari's Carpet Cleaning team at Legacy Park in Mountain Home April 19.
The season was coincidentally played during the Month of the Military Child, but has proven to be a struggle for the Youth Center-sponsored "Thunderbolts," named after the 389th Fighter Squadron, one of three F-15E and F-15SG Strike Eagle fighter squadrons here.
There are five Mountain Home town teams playing in the boy's 10-12 age group. Due to lacking numbers on base, the Thunderbolts are an 8-12 year old team, which has only two 12 year-old player and 60 percent of the team is under 10.
Diversity plays a large role in the Thunderbolts line-up, which consists of 16 children, six of whom are children of Republic of Singapore Airmen. RSAF live among U.S. Air Force and in the local community, and train at the 428th Fighter Squadron, as part of the Peace Carvin V program, a long-term partnership between the USAF and RSAF.
Meanwhile, back at Legacy Park, the Thunderbolts took on another mighty opponent. 10-year-old Kell Iverson attempted to equalize just after half-time, when he shot the team's first goal into the bottom corner of the net.
"We'll take it! We'll take it!" shouted a group of parent supporters.
The shot came in the third quarter when Liam Wallace and 9-year-old Skylar Tham worked the pitch like peanut butter and jelly, taking short passes to one another as they moved the ball from near their own goal line to the far side of the pitch.
Sending the ball through a defender's legs and running around him to push forward, Wallace found himself inside the opposition's goal box and took a shot toward the top-right corner. The keeper deflected the shot, and it was at that moment Iverson stepped up and sent the ball into the net.
After a roar of cheers from the crowd, Col. David Iverson, 366th Fighter Wing commander and Kell's father, exclaimed, "Well, we had our first goal!"
The overpowered Thunderbolts lost the match 5-1, but no blame can be placed on the T-bolts goalkeeper, Donte Brazell.
Whether it was coming out to challenge attacks, quickly diving for saves or booting the ball far into the field to clear strikes, Brazell was on his A-Game.
Still, Brazell didn't have to go-it alone, as he had some great defending from Donovan Gordon, Matthew Johnson, Brayden Shields, Davis Saunders, Iverson, Casey Sitton, and Cyrus and Skylar Tham, who alternated between striker and mid-fielder, along with Wallace.
The middle of the pitch was worked well by Enzo Yeo, Hagen Flahaut, Eason and Elton Li, and Kalib and Ethan Ferguson.
The Thunderbolts have one final match, which they'll play in the final weekend of the Month of the Military Child, April 26, at Legacy Park.
The team is coached by Airman 1st Class Zachary McGrew, 366th Comptroller Squadron, Airman 1st Class John Eckart, 726th Air Control Squadron, and Lt. Col. Jeremy Saunders, 366th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron commander.
The primary struggle for the Thunderbolts has been a large age-gap when compared to their off-base peers. Parents can close that gap in future seasons and with other youth sports by supporting the Youth Center sports programs, directed by Erin Arel, who can be reached at (208) 828-2501.
Phil McClusky, MHAFB Primary School principal, agrees that parent support is paramount, and hosted many Month of the Military Child events at the base's primary school, which is part of the Mountain Home School District, and is an Idaho state school.
"[It's important] the children don't feel forgotten and show them we know things are hard, but they actually have a better-rounded experience because of being a military child," said McClusky.
Editor's note: The Thunderbolts team consists of: Brayden Shields, Davis Saunders, Matthew Johnson, Kell Iverson, Liam Wallace, Ethan Ferguson, Casey Sitton, Enzo Yeo, Hagen Flahaut, Donovan Gordon, Eason and Elton Li, Donte Brazell, Kalib Ferguson, and Cyrus and Skylar Tham.