Goss: Plainfield Central soccer team rolls hard-earned 7
October 12, 2012 8:52PM
Plainfield Central's #2, Mohamad Rashid, left, salutes teammate #14, Dan Rosenbaum after Rashid's goal against Plainfield North at Plainfield North High School in Plainfield, IL on Monday September 24, 2012. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media
7-Time SPC Champs
Seniors: Tyler Badertscher, Mohamad Rashid, Nick Belom, John Hurley, Billy Ballentine, Nick Castellucci, Eddie Rios, Mike Giocolo, Steve Wenzel, Dan Rosenbaum.
Juniors: Miguel Sanchez, Sam Espinal, Mike Menefee, Miguel Duran, Saul Aviles, Kyle Oehler, Nick Evans, Ola Shobowale.
Sophomores: Ozzie Gutierrez, Noe Gomez.
Updated: November 15, 2012 6:35AM
A couple of years ago, Mohamad Rashid was living in his native Palestine, attending school and playing soccer as much as he was able, given the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian region.
His sister and brother-in-law live in Plainfield, and “my dad sent me to live here with them,” he said. “He wanted me to get better education and a better soccer life.”
So Rashid enrolled at Plainfield Central for his junior year and now as a senior is the team’s leading scorer, helping the Wildcats win a second straight Southwest Prairie Conference championship.
Not that they did not realize such success before Rashid’s arrival. This, in fact, is the seventh consecutive SPC title for Central under 11-year coach Kevin Fitzgerald, the only seven in school history. But Rashid has been a welcome addition nonetheless.
“Mo has meant a lot to this group, and he and Miguel Sanchez, a junior, have led us in goals all season,” Fitzgerald said, noting Rashid’s 16 goals and six assists and Sanchez’s 15 and three. “We also have a senior-dominated defense. Guys like Nick Castellucci, Mike Giocolo, Billy Ballentine, Dan Rosenbaum and Nick Belom have been outstanding.
“Plus, we have a senior goalkeeper, Tyler Badertscher, who broke our school record for shutouts.”
Badertscher entered Thursday’s regular-season finale with 26 career shutouts, eclipsing the previous mark of 24, to go with his record 12 in a season. All this from a kid who thought he “was tired of being a goalkeeper” and played center midfield on the JV team as a freshman.
“Coach Fitz found out I had been a goalkeeper and he switched me back there,” Badertscher said. “I’ve been there since sophomore year. It’s been fun. The guys in front of me knew what they were doing all the while.”
“Tyler has saved us in a lot of games,” Rashid said.
Rashid played mainly defense as a junior and began this season there but switched to forward early on.
“What Mo brought to us was his style of play,” Badertscher said. “The pace of our game is much quicker with him. The guys welcomed him right away.”
“At the beginning it was kind of hard,” Rashid said. “But after I got to know everyone, this has been all I could ask for. When I started getting used to playing with these guys, they helped me a lot. I got to know the kids, we got close and we all began trusting each other.
“I’ve had so much fun that I wish I was here since freshman year and got four conference championships, but two is good.”
Central played a difficult nonconference schedule, including a trip to Springfield for a competitive tournament, and stumbled out of the gates 3-6-1. The Wildcats also dropped the conference opener to Plainfield South 2-1 before reeling off six straight SPC wins and upping their overall record to 12-8-1.
“It was frustrating for the whole team to lose to Plainfield South, but afterward we talked about it and coach said to forget it,” Rashid said. “So we let it go and that gave us some heart.”
“We thought we had enough talent to win conference again, but I’d be lying if I did not say we had doubts along the way,” Fitzgerald said. “We lost to Plainfield South last year, too, and losing to them again was especially disappointing because we thought the motivation was there for us to beat them. And even the games we won in the conference, someone pointed out they were all by more than one goal, but they seemed closer and in reality probably were.
“However, effort never has been an issue with these kids. One of the main reasons we started slow was the schedule, and we hope that still benefits us next week.”
That’s when the Wildcats will compete in the Class 3A Neuqua Valley Regional, where they will have to beat East Aurora and then probably Neuqua to claim the school’s first regional title. They got close last year, losing to East Auora 5-4 in overtime in the title game.
They’re close, in more ways than one.
“I have three or four real close friends on the team, but all of us are close,” Rashid said. “I love playing this sport and playing it with these guys.”
“This is a group who are even better kids than they are soccer players,” Fitzgerald said. “They have made the lives of the coaches nice and fun. So it’s really nice to see them succeed as well.”
Rashid, who began learning English in seventh grade, said the academic side of life “is better here than over there (in Palestine). I didn’t put too much into education over there, but I’ve been doing better here. Now, studying always comes before soccer.”
Rashid ran track last spring but said he may switch to club soccer next spring.
If he has his druthers, he said he would like to attend Northern Illinois University and hopefully play soccer there.
From not knowing what to expect that first day of practice last fall, he has grown into a valued member of his new family.
It’s a family that is building a dynasty.
Brown & Gold
A reminder that former Bears quarterback Jim McMahon will be the guest speaker for the annual University of St. Francis Brown & Gold athletic fundraiser Thursday night at the Patrick J. Sullivan Recreation Center. Tickets are $50 or $500 for a table of 10 and may be obtained by calling Dave Laketa at (815) 740-3842.