By Claire Byun
That’s what the New Orleans Jesters can call themselves after an undefeated season.
The Jesters clinched the league’s Southeast conference title 3-0 Saturday, finishing an undefeated season in front of hundreds of fans cheering on the minor league team. With that win, New Orleans will host the conference tournament Friday at Pan American Stadium at City Park.
The Jesters are one of three National Premier Soccer League teams that remain undefeated.
“Ecstatic, it’s really an accomplishment,” said player Curtis Thorne. “Now we just need to our focus to nationals.”
For the first time in the team’s history, the Jesters finished their regular season without a single loss. Saturday’s game started off slow, with the first goal against the Birmingham Hammers coming nearly 30 minutes into the first half. The Jesters defeated the Hammers earlier this year with a 2-5 score, and that legacy didn’t let up.
The second half brought more action, with two free kicks – one in the last minute of the game – bringing the score up. That’s now how Ralph Price, player and manager, saw the game ending, but it fits how the season has gone so far.
“In all these situations, we’ve had to learn how to grind,” Price said. “Some games have come down to the wire, and some we’ve had to come up from behind, but we’ve done it.”
Thousands of fans packed one side of Pan American Stadium, clad in purple and green. Officials announced a record-breaking crowd of more than 2,000 people at Saturday’s game, many of them families with small children decked out in Jesters gear. Each goal brought deafening cheers from those lined up on the bleachers, including from fan Sterling Tucker.
Tucker riled up the crowd by beating a kick drum to the beat of chants, cheering on the Jesters every time they passed. He said he often watches televised soccer and appreciates a local team he can see live.
“It’s excellent soccer played in the city,” Tucker said.
Head Coach Kenny Farrell was bombarded with hugs, handshakes and congratulations after the Jesters’ win. He repeatedly lauded the teams’ ability to practice day-in and day-out while traveling long distances for games, but still ending the regular season with a clean slate.
Farrell had gone undefeated once before – back when the team was branded as the “Shell Shockers” – but Saturday was the first time the Jesters finished without a loss.
“They don’t lie down, they don’t give up,” Farrell said. “They know what it takes to win.”
Hours upon hours of training, strategizing and working together have led the Jesters to the top spot. As a bonus, the team spent Saturday stealing the conference title from the longtime-champs Chattanooga Football Club.
Now, the Jesters have a new goal: clinch the national tournament and take home the gold.
“I’ll let them have about five minutes of fun, and then it’s back to work,” Farrell said.
To learn more about the Jesters, or to see their full schedule, visit their website.