The Tigers graduated 10 players from that championship team, including their top two scorers, Adrian M. Lagos and Innocent Buule, who combined to score a remarkable 61 goals between them last season. The Tigers steamrolled their way through the HCIAA, winning all 17 of their league contests. It was definitely a year to remember, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of season, never to be duplicated.
Even de los Reyes believed it was not possible.
"At the beginning of the year, I was very skeptical," de los Reyes said. "We lost a great deal of talent from last year. You don't replace players like Adrian and Innocent. We had so many young players. We had to create a mix of the young players who didn't get that much playing time last year with those who were starters."
There was another factor at hand. The Tigers surprised everyone last year with their undefeated league run. There were not going to be any shocking turn of events this time around.
"Last year, no one expected us to be so strong," de los Reyes said. "It was even more surprising to me. But once we were, everyone then paid more attention to us. We had good players. We just had to adjust to everything being so different."
So by virtue of their undefeated run, the Tigers went from being the upstart surprise to the hunted favorite. No one was going to take Memorial lightly in soccer anymore. The Tigers had turned the corner and made strides to becoming a powerhouse. Undefeated seasons can do that.
Even though the Tigers were not as talented as they were in 2006, they still had a goal in mind. "We wanted to get back there again," de los Reyes said.
Anyone involved in sports will tell you as difficult as it is to win a championship - and in the case of the Memorial soccer team, a championship that was some 17 years in the making - staying on top of the heap is even harder.
"I thought we had some good players," de los Reyes said. "The kids were very technical and skillful. They were very smart. They had tremendous determination. If I gave them a job, they were going to do it. They responded to every instruction. I thought we had a chance to be a good team."
But to complete yet another undefeated league championship season? Dream on. Especially in the rough-and-tumble world of the HCIAA Coviello division, where every game among the upper echelon is a tightly contested battle, the idea of two consecutive years without a single loss was preposterous and highly unlikely.
However, the unthinkable became a reality last Sunday, when the Tigers defeated Dickinson, 2-0, to capture their second straight HCIAA Coviello title, capping yet another unbeaten campaign in the league.
Over the last two seasons, the Tigers have been an unimaginable 33-0-1, with the only slight blemish being a scoreless tie with Ferris this season.
"I still don't believe it," de los Reyes said. "No one could have ever thought that. These kids proved everyone wrong. It is really remarkable. The kids really played up to the challenge."
While the Tigers were not as offensively potent as they were a year ago, they certainly were effective. Both teams had the same key ingredient, a rock-steady goalkeeper who was hell bent on protecting his net.
Senior Johnny Londono ended his high school career in fitting fashion, posting another shutout, his eighth of the season and 26th of his brilliant four-year varsity career. Londono, definitely the vocal and spiritual leader of the team, put a stamp in the finale that he was truly the last line of defense in the entire county.
"He really established himself as the best goalkeeper in the county," de los Reyes.
Senior midfielder Juan Ramirez also stepped forward as a team leader. Playing with a severely bruised nose that he received from an errant elbow in the Tigers' loss to West Orange in the NJSIAA North Jersey Section 1, Group IV playoffs two days prior, Ramirez came through in a huge way Sunday, scoring both of his team's goals in the win over Dickinson.
"He took a shot in the face in the state playoffs, but nothing was going to keep him from playing in the county final," de los Reyes said.
Ramirez was selected as the Most Valuable Player in the title game and was later named as the HCIAA Coviello Player of the Year by the coaches.
Senior midfielders Sebastian Delgado and Luigi Juarez and senior defender Carlos Unigarra were also solid contributors for the Memorial program for four years.
But what made this team a champion once again was the development of their younger players who stepped up and became some of the leading scorers on the team, including a pair of sophomore forwards who might become as offensively imposing as Lagos and Buule were last year.
Fernando Alvarez played sparingly with the varsity last year, but the talented sophomore came through to tally a team-high 18 goals this season.
"He really stepped it up in a big way," de los Reyes said.
Orlando Benitez, another sophomore forward, had 12 goals. He also didn't see much action a year ago. Junior Michael Kuzurian, another talented forward who was a reserve last year, came through with 11 goals.
That's how championship teams become championship programs. One kid leaves and another steps in without missing a beat.
"We needed everyone to step up," de los Reyes said. "The chemistry ended up being there. Mentally, these kids were so strong. They had the skill and they had the technical side down. It was just up to the coaches to create the right strategy. I think each kid had a different task this year than last year. It was all so different." Except for the results.
"I think that's what makes it all so rewarding," de los Reyes said. "They are a wonderful group of kids and they proved everyone wrong. No one ever thought this could happen."
The amazing thing is that it could legitimately happen again. The forward line of Alvarez, Benitez and Kuzurian returns. So do midfielders Omar Sanchez and Edison Sanchez. Sweeper Edwin Amaya also comes back. It will be very difficult to replace a stud like Londono in goal, but everyone thought that Lagos and Buule would be impossible to replace.
"We still have a lot coming back," de los Reyes said. "We have a lot of good players here."
A dynasty is definitely in the making.
In the other two HCIAA final contests, the Lasercats of High Tech High School made it four straight Seglio Division titles with a 3-0 victory over Hoboken in the title game Sunday.
Seniors Steven Santos and Daniel Quiero ended their careers by having won the HCIAA Seglio crown all four years.
The Bayonne girls won the HCIAA girls' soccer title, defeating rival Holy Family Academy for the second straight year. As it turned out, it was a "three-peat" of repeats last Sunday in North Bergen.