It took just three minutes for Jon Boyd to endure the most excruciating pain he has felt on a soccer pitch.
The Saint Stephen’s midfielder collided with a Naples Community School player on a 50/50 ball, and his hand was crushed in the early minutes of last year’s regional playoff game.
Boyd ran off the turf at Saint Stephen’s for treatment, before returning to play the rest of the match.
The Falcons lost 2-1, while Boyd embarked on an offseason recovering from his injured left hand.
The final stat line to the injury is two scars, three fractured bones and nine pins.
“It’s a constant reminder there’s unfinished business,” Boyd said.
This season, Boyd and the Falcons are back in a big way. Saint Stephen’s is 11-2-1 this year, recording a signature victory over Cardinal Mooney on Friday and have scored 80 goals. Boyd, a senior, is a key contributor to that attack. He’s produced 26 goals and 11 assists in his best season to date.
“He’s got so much pace and technical ability,” Saint Stephen’s head coach Marc Jones said. “He’s a very, very difficult player to stop in the final third. And he’s proved what a great finisher that he is.”
Becoming a leader on the Falcons came naturally for Boyd. As an eighth-grader, he watched Cam Tally, Tim Nutter, Colin Yates and Sam Lynch take that mantle during their senior seasons. At that point, Boyd didn’t have a set position. He filled in wherever he was asked. That versatility is one aspect to his leadership skills, while returning to the pitch to play practically an entire match with a broken hand showed another aspect.
“Just by touching somebody that pain resonates through your whole arm and body (and) that ... showed the character that Jon has, that grit and determination and that never-say-die attitude,” Jones said. “(Other players) respond, and they’ll do anything for Jon, because he’s a natural leader.”
Boyd’s path to Saint Stephen’s varsity soccer team started early. He attended the private school as a kindergartener, and started attending camps conducted by head coach Marc Jones and the school. He developed a friendship with several players close in age, whether fellow senior Alex Virgilio or former teammate like Antonio Colacci (now at the University of New Hampshire). That friendship led to Boyd building an on field chemistry in playing the beautiful game as many Falcons also play club soccer together.
“I can’t imagine myself anywhere else,” Boyd said.
Goals and goals
Entering his senior year, Boyd had a goal in mind to score at least 20 goals. The past few seasons saw him play a more holding midfield role, which meant his job duties rested with covering the attacking players in defense.
And his career-high was 16 goals last season.
With the shackles thrown off this season, Boyd didn’t have any trouble hitting the 20-goal mark. In fact, he scored a career-high five goals in one match in late November. This past Friday, he produced a hat trick in yet another Falcons victory.
“I hit that (goal) 10 games in,” Boyd said.
Time to reassess, and that’s been time to reflect on the team aspiration of winning a state championship.
“After the Sarasota Christian game, I had five (goals) and was at 17 seven games into the season,” Boyd said. “I’m like, ‘I’m going to try scoring two a game at this point.’”
Boyd wasn’t too old the last time the Falcons tasted state championship glory. Saint Stephen’s won a boys soccer title in 2001, when the Falcons participated as a fall program.
Boyd, Chris Pennewill and Virgilio are some of the players that enjoyed the Falcons last run to a Final Four, reaching it two seasons ago when Boyd was a sophomore.
The hunger to return hasn’t waned.
“I think very often about how we haven’t won a state title since 2001, and I was 3,” Boyd said. “I want to be the one to do it again.”
Part of his success on the pitch and with his leadership skills are due to his classroom chops. Boyd thrives in the classroom, garnered a 34 on the ACT (American College Testing) test and was accepted into two top academic schools in Georgetown and Tulane. A perfect ACT score is 36.
Boyd is taking several AP classes, and is applying to other colleges such as Duke and Wake Forest. But he’s also keeping an open mind at what that means for his soccer future.
“I can’t see myself on those teams,” Boyd said. “It’s important to be realistic and I don’t think I’m quite on that level yet.”
While his college future isn’t determined quite yet, Boyd still possesses an immense passion for soccer. And that passion correlates to what he’s done on the pitch thus far.
With just a couple weeks left before the postseason begins, Boyd’s poised to lead the Falcons back to the regional tournament and a possible rematch with CSN to exact revenge for last year’s early playoff exit.