Special Photo — Buford senior Jose Guifarro celebrates after scoring the first goal of his high school career. Guifarro worked his way onto the varsity team after overcoming a serious surgery on his leg.
Jose Guifarro's emotional soccer goal
Jose Guifarro's emotional goal was a lifetime memory for those in attendance during Buford High School's soccer game.
Even the referees understood.
When Jose Guifarro scored with six seconds left during Buford’s 3-0 win over Banks County on March 29, there was more excitement over that goal than any game-winner. The senior’s boys soccer teammates lifted him on their shoulders and the Wolves’ substitutes, overcome with emotion, ran onto the field.
When the reserves were brought back to the sideline, the game officials didn’t issue a card for excessive celebration. They got it.
This Senior Night goal, one that had Buford fans in tears, was a special one.
“I can tell you by far that the experience trumps anything I have ever been a part of in sports,” said Buford boys soccer coach Brandon Manders, whose typically strong teams have had plenty of other opportunities to celebrate.
But none of those playoff victories or clutch goals brought out the kind of emotion as this one, an otherwise meaningless goal with six seconds left on the clock. To understand why, it requires a flashback.
Guifarro, who moved to Georgia as a fifth-grader, was born premature in Olancho de Juticalpa, Honduras, and among his health issues was a underdeveloped left leg. To run, he literally dragged that stiff leg on the ground for the first 14 years of his life.
Despite that, his incredible work ethic showed enough that the coaches gave him a spot on the junior varsity team as a Buford freshman. Following that season, he had a major surgery on the leg to lengthen the tendons and spent four months in a cast.
Returning to the high school team, Guifarro played his sophomore and junior seasons on the junior varsity. Aware that his skill level itself may not be varsity-worthy, he was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to play as a senior, since Buford doesn’t allow seniors to play JV.
There was no need to worry, Manders said. While Guifarro may only play in one or two matches all season, he would be the Wolves’ major motivation.
“I told my coaches that if we could take this kid’s heart and put it in every player, we would be unstoppable,” Manders said. “He works harder than anyone.”
The work ethic paid off with Guifarro’s goal, a workman-like effort.
Matt Bonadies ripped a shot from 40 yards out off the post and Christian Lopez followed it up with a low shot that the Banks County goalkeeper blocked. Guifarro, completing a gimpy run toward the net, followed that up with the first goal of his high school soccer career.
“I was happy but I did not do it alone,” Guifarro said. “It took a team effort and that is the most important thing. It is not about me, but it is about the team.”
While Guifarro’s humility is admirable, this one was about him. It’s why Manders, the Wolves’ coach since the program began in 2001, gave out a game ball for the first time in his tenure — as Buford supporters wept in joy.
His teammates were just as moved, having witnessed Guifarro’s journey for the past four seasons.
“We were happy for Jose because he works so hard every day,” teammate Jesus Deleon said. “Jose doesn’t start, but he works like he is a starter. It was very emotional for everyone.”
It also was a sweet, rewarding moment for Guifarro, whose effort impacted everyone in the stands at Buford that evening. Not surprisingly, the Wolves backers were clapping. But so was the opposing team.
And yep, even the referees joined in the applause.
“I was thrilled for Jose because the kid works harder than any kid I have ever coached,” Manders said. “He has all those intangibles that separate the average player from the great player. His intangibles make him a leader on the field at practice and in games. God had a plan for Jose that night and he placed that ball on his foot and basically told Jose to do the rest.
“The great thing is that when Jose scored, he carried himself like it was an every day occurrence. It was incredible.”
Will Hammock can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Thursdays. For archived columns, go to www.gwinnettdailypost.com/willhammock.
MOBILE USERS: Click here to view a video of the goal.