For two years, junior Adam Kluge got to know Onslow County, a coastal area in North Carolina, as a haven for two of his favorite pastimes: soccer and the beach.
The AC Reynolds High School boys and girls soccer teams, along with their rival, TC Roberson High, would travel from the mountainous Asheville area in western North Carolina to the coast for preseason training.
But this summer, the beachfront condo was different. Instead of stepping onto the porch and seeing it reflected in the Atlantic, the team was surrounded by the impact of Hurricane Florence.
“They got hit very hard by the hurricane,” Kluge said. “There was major flooding, and big winds, lots of houses and shingles everywhere. Just a really bad scene — it must be hard for those people down there.
“So we wanted to help.”
Reynolds head coach Patrick Gladys said he and Roberson head coach Josh Martin had been talking about incorporating a college football-like trophy into the rivalry.
This was the perfect time and situation to start it up, they agreed. Thus, the Busbee Bucket, named after the mountain separating the two schools, was created.
The concept: The wooden bucket would be passed around the stands when the two soccer teams face off. People could place donations inside. The winning school would get to choose the charity to give the funds to, keep the bucket, and paint a panel with their school colors to indicate the victory.
It’s a novel way for the rivals to stimulate competition while teaching compassion and sportsmanship.
“It’s something they can really be proud of. They go to this camp at the coast, they know exactly the areas that were flooded,” Gladys said. “I think it gives them a different perspective on how these natural disasters can impact people that are just like them.”
The schools raised $520 at the game Monday despite the stands not being as packed as usual due to rain.
Reynolds won 2-1. Junior Luke Sloan made the winning goal, a penalty kick with about three minutes left.
He said he tried to block out the magnitude of the moment — beating a rival, winning the first Busbee Bucket matchup — but beating Roberson isn’t a matchup full of animosity. It’s about playing against old friends.
“A lot of us are close because of club soccer, and playing soccer since we were kids and then going off to high school to play against each other,” Sloan said. “We keep it pretty sportsmanlike and not really hateful. It’s just a fun rivalry.”
The boys teams have one more head-to-head matchup this season and the girls teams will face off twice, providing more opportunities to raise funds for those affected by Hurricane Florence.
Kluge is already looking toward his senior year training camp, where the teams can see how they’ve made an impact.
“(It) made me think about going next year and if it’ll be the same place that we go, if the damage will still be in recovery,” he said. “Any help that we can give them to recover and get back to normal sooner is great.”