The end of a season brings about talk of the seniors that will be missed and need to be replaced, and the next step in the growing process for young players.
For the first time in years for the Defiance High School boys soccer program, the end of the season, which came about via a sectional loss to Van Wert, also brings talk of who will be the coach of the program in 2012 as long-time mentor Carlos Lopez is calling it a career for now.
"It was real tough because I have loved soccer all my life," stated Lopez, days after his 21st season of coaching DHS came to a close. "It was a tough decision but I think Defiance High School needs a new face, a new look, something different. My family deserves my attention and I need to dedicate my time to my wife, my kids and my future grandchildren."
Personal reasons were at the forefront for the long-time mentor in stepping away from the sport he loves, the sport he is passionate about, and it comes one season after long-time assistant and friend Alfred Menendez stepped away from the program.
"I coached with Mr. Menendez all my life and that was a decision that sooner or later was going to happen," said Lopez, noting that Menendez's absence from the bench didn't play a role. "I didn't want to make a real drastic move (for the program), leaving (at the same time as Menendez) and all that. I knew I was going to miss it, like I know I'm going to miss next year. I tried to slow the process ... this doesn't mean that in the future I won't come back, but as of this moment and the next couple of years, I don't think so. I'll leave the door open, but I'm only going to ever coach in one place in Defiance, Ohio."
Defiance High School athletic director Jerry Buti knows that Lopez stepping down leaves a big hole not only in the boys soccer program, but in the entire athletic department.
"Carlos is the father of soccer in Defiance ... there's no one in this town that knows more about the game than him," said Buti. "He is Defiance soccer, everybody knows it, and the job he has done here has been outstanding. He's such a great personality, he's such a hard worker and he will be very, very hard to replace.
"His teams were always competitive and he and Alfred (Menendez) made such a great team," added Buti. "His stepping down leaves a big-time hole in the program and in the athletic department. I know that Carlos is stepping away from the program for family reasons and I really respect that. Like I said, it's going to be very difficult to replace Carlos Lopez."
Lopez finishes with four WBL titles under his belt, pair of sectional titles and two district runner-up finishes. He has amassed a 179-141-50 record, with big-time rivalry games against the likes of Napoleon and Ottawa-Glandorf, to name a couple, making up several of those tallies.
"Passionate is always the word that comes to mind when talking about Carlos, he is a real competitor," said Napoleon head coach Chris DelFavero. "He always sticks up for his kids and his team and his program. The Napoleon-Defiance rivalry, Carlos is a huge part of that.
"I know that we as a group really respect him and are going to miss him," added the Napoleon coach. I'm not sure what I'm going to do when I don't hear him next year because he's been such a huge part of that rivalry and probably the biggest part of that rivalry over the years. I have a lot of respect for him."
Lopez, who already showed signs of missing the game by going to Thursday's district semifinal game between O-G and Napoleon, expects that "it will really hit" in January with the beginning of the indoor season, not to mention when the 2012 season opener rolls around.
"The first game next year is going to break my heart, it's going to break my soul, but it's something that I need to do in these moments and dedicate my time to my family," said Lopez. I'm going to miss everything. I'm going to miss the kids, our athletic director Jerry Buti, the school, the game ... everything. I've always loved soccer, I've been playing soccer since I was four years old, so I know I'm going to miss everything.
"I really want to thank everybody," concluded Lopez. "The players and parents who supported my program and people who went through my program. I don't have enough words to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I'm always going to remember the soccer family. The people who took me from 1991 up to today and I want everybody to know that I'm going to miss them."