Hereford’s boys soccer team stepped onto the field at CCBC-Essex for Saturday night’s Class 3A State semifinal game wearing t-shirts that read, “For Jerry.”

On Friday night, senior goal keeper Michael Warns’ father, Michael Sr., also known as “Jerry,” passed away suddenly. 

Warns weathered the emotions and started in goal. He and his Bulls’ teammates played with everything they had for Jerry, who was a rec league coach for many of the players on the team.

Hereford played 69 minutes of even, scoreless soccer before Patriots senior midfielder Andrew Garner scored on a penalty kick, lifting Northern to a 1-0 win.

“We played very well tonight,” said Hereford coach Mike Lacko.  “It was a very emotional game for us. The emotion really hit hard last night because it happened right after practice…it’s been tough.”

“It was a well-fought game, both teams went all out,” he added.  “I thought we played a little bit too much of a defensive game. We kind of pulled back, when we should have moved forward.”

The Bulls (12-4-2) exceeded expectations this season, fielding one of their youngest teams in recent memory.   Hereford had four seniors mixed in with 17 underclassmen but found a way to make it back into the state playoffs after reaching the final game a season ago.

“After last year’s state final team, we definitely had a high bar set but I think we got there,” said senior defender Stephen Vicchio.  “We got back to the state semis and anything can happen, as you saw tonight.  I give Northern credit.  It was an evenly fought game but they found the way to find that one goal and that was the difference.”

With his young team maturing at the end of the season and into the playoffs, Lacko believes the future is bright for his squad:

“We were here [state semis] last year, we’re here this year and we will be here again next year, without a doubt.”

Warns (five saves) made two big stops late, including a save against Austin Black with 13:10 remaining to keep the contest scoreless.  But after the Bulls were called for a tripping foul in the box, Garner scored the game-winner.

When the final whistle sounded, the Hereford players walked over to Warns and gave him a big hug, showing that the other 20 players were there for him.

“I just want to thank all of the fans for coming out tonight.  It means a lot for our team and what happened last night,” said a tearful Vicchio.  “Jerry is in our thoughts and prayers and will live on through us, Hereford soccer.”

Note: Varsity Sports Network would like to send our sincerest condolences to the Warns’ family and Hereford community.