If it’s a last hurrah for Columbus friends Mitch Tabler, Devon Orben and Devin Brown, it’s a good one.
The trio of talented local soccer players, who started playing together when they were 9 years old, will form a solid nucleus of the U19 Westside United 94 Finbloom team that begins play today in the United States Youth Soccer 2013 Region II Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
Finbloom faces Crew Juniors of Ohio at noon today. The team will continue pool play Sunday and Monday, with a semifinal round scheduled for Tuesday and finals Wednesday.
The team went 3-0 in winning a State Cup title in Columbus to earn the berth at the Regional.
Tabler, Orben and Brown, all 19, have played important roles in helping Finbloom advance. It helps they are familiar with each other as players and friends.
“We have always been really tight and cool with one another,” said Brown, who graduated from Columbus East in 2011.
“We’ve all been friends forever,” said Tabler, a 2013 graduate of Columbus East.
Their camaraderie has served them well. The trio played with one another up until the U14 level and have since reconvened with the Finbloom.
“Since we’re all playing in college (next season), everyone’s mindset was to play on a competitive team for the summer,” said Orben, the lone Columbus North alum of the group, graduating in 2012.
Last August, Brett Finbloom, a former teammate, died of alcohol poisoning. Tabler based his senior project on the passing of Finbloom and the new Lifeline Law.
Tabler raised money for his project by selling armbands with the letters GTWO, which stands for “get the word out.” With the money, he created the Brett Finbloom Scholarship, which is given to someone who campaigns and advocates for the Lifeline Law and its importance.
“It makes it more special because were not doing it just for ourselves, but for Brett’s parents, his family and his memory,” Brown said.
During a game played in the State Cup tournament, the Finblooms started a game with only 10 players, a tribute to their fallen teammate.
Brown currently attends the University of Indianapolis, where he majors in economics and plays center back for the soccer team.
“Our goal was to win the state cup (with Finbloom); now hopefully we can win the regional and make it to nationals,” said Orben.
Orben will be attending American University in the fall, after transferring from IUPUI. He plays center-mid and studies business management. When Orben was taking recruiting trips, he stayed with Brown at UIndy. And when Tabler was doing the same thing his senior year of high school, he stayed with Orben at IUPUI.
“We have a good friendship; we’ve known and played with each other for a long time,” Orben said.
Orben said the Finbloom players were fairly familiar with each other before the State Cup.
“We’ve played with most of the guys on the team beforehand. We kind of knew everybody,” Orben said.
The Finbloom players are guaranteed three games in Des Moines. In their bracket are teams from Iowa, Ohio and Michigan.
Tabler, who will attend DePauw University this fall, said that after this tournament he and Brown and Orben will have to adjust to playing without one another.
“It’s not devastating, but it makes me think about the future. It’s going to be different.”