Anton Banfield led Pebblebrook’s soccer program to a successful 19-3-1 season and a state championship appearance.
The Falcons also put together a perfect record in Region 2AAAAAAA play while going undefeated on the road.
For his success, Banfield was selected as the 2022 Cobb County Boys Soccer Coach of the Year by his peers.
“Even being a teacher in the school — the emotion, the enthusiasm, the excitement and the love that was shown by the student body and the staff was just amazing,” Banfield said. “It was nothing like I’ve ever experienced being at the school for the past nine years.”
Pebblebrook’s season began with uncertainty, as Banfield said the team did not know how capable it was to take its talent to the next level.
“At the beginning of the year, no one, including themselves, believed that the team was strong enough or had any superstars to take this to the state finals,” Banfield said. “We had some really great players at different positions, and they all came together.”
“Our first two games were kind of, ‘OK, we have a lot of work to do,’ but as the season went on, everyone understood their roles,” Banfield said. “They were disciplined to the system and they dug deep and followed. They were very coachable, followed the system and played hard every game and played with heart.”
One of the key matchups for Pebblebrook was its regular-season finale against Campbell. The Falcons shut out the Spartans 1-0 to cap an undefeated season in region play and clinch the 2AAAAAAA title.
“He’s a great guy. We have a very, very good rivalry going,” Campbell coach Troy Connolly said of Banfield. “Over the last few years, it’s been kind of back-and-forth, and I think it speaks volumes to the job he’s doing over there.”
Amid the rivalry, Connolly said the Pebblebrook-Campbell game is often one of the most important of the season, and one of the best games as far as competition and audience turnout.
“He does a very good job of fostering a competitive culture,” Connolly said. “When we play each other, the games are always wild. Both schools turn out support. A lot of players grew up playing with each other, so a lot of players know each other.”
Banfield said his Pebblebrook team was rebuilding just one a year ago, and its chemistry is what set it apart.
“The last couple of years with COVID, we had a lot of guys who hadn’t been playing,” Banfield said. “We were actually rebuilding after the 2019 season when COVID hit. That was a rebuilding year. We had a lot of seniors. But this year, we had a group of guys that were really passionate and had one goal. They all had to work together to achieve the success we achieved.”
Part of the success is what Banfield brings to the players off the field, with their code hanging in the locker room as a reminder of what the team stands for.
“Our code that we have on our board in the locker room is ‘Discipline, passion, pride, belief and family.’ Each word, we break it down to what it means for us as a team,” Banfield said. “We believe the game is more than just on the field. I tell the kids, this is not just about soccer. It’s about life, and you can learn about life by how you conduct yourself as a player and be part of a team.”