It wasn’t quite as thrilling as the Women’s World Cup final between the U.S. and Japan, but a recent men’s alumni soccer game at OPRF drew nearly 40 former players to Oak Park Stadium.

The camaraderie overshadowed the actual game, the third of its kind where all proceeds benefit the boys soccer program at the school. Two teams were divided up according to graduation years (odds and evens), and designated as Blue and Orange. In a tough, back-and-fourth game, Blue ended up handing Orange a 5-2 loss.

But Orange took control early by notching an impressive goal from Ekerin Agboola, who stole a pass and shot over the head of goalie Jim Gullo.

The Blue team responded with the equalizer a few minutes later on a goal by Jordan Golz, and eventually took the lead when Chris Fitch found the net. As the first half came to a close, Babatunde Williams tied up the score with a thunderous bicycle kick.

Blue opened the second half with a quick goal by Mark Bernthal, whose initial shot caromed off the post, but the former Huskie was able to knock the ricochet into the net. Blue extended its lead on an impressive goal by Golz, who took off from midfield after a counter-attack and dashed toward the goal on a breakaway.

With time running out, Blue sealed the win with a goal by Robin Hargadon.

Paul Wright has been the OPRF head soccer coach for nine seasons. Around his fifth year in, some former players suggested that he organize an alumni game. Wright was motivated to use the event as a tool to reconnect former players and as a networking opportunity for current players pursuing information about potential colleges or career choices.

“[It’s a] great networking asset and a great chance to catch up with former players who have gone on to become doctors and lawyers and engineers,” Wright said.

The event is also designated as a way to procure money for the OPRF soccer booster club. The money donated is used to purchase brand new equipment and to fund team outings.

This year’s event had a wide variety of players, from current staff members, such as OPRF Athletics Director John Stelzer and Spanish teacher Luis Perez, to recent OPRF graduates. Golz, who was a three-year starter for Wright, is currently attending and playing soccer at Wheaton College, along with his older brother Drew, a multi-sport athlete.

As opposed to last year’s game, when the teams were divided by the Wright era of the 2000s and the Doug Hunt era of the ’80s and ’90s, the teams had diversity in age and experience under different coaches.

At the culmination of the game, Wright exclaimed, “It’s great to catch up with the guys and hearing about what’s going on in their lives. I really love seeing the older guys connect with the younger guys.”

Hargadon, a 2006 graduate, brimmed with excitement.

“It is always great fun to come out and see guys you haven’t seen in a while,” he said. “I’m so glad coach Wright and [John] Stelzer were able to put this together.”

He also lauded Wright’s success as a coach by saying, “It’s a great program and I love what coach Wright has done with it, even since I left. It’s great to come back and inspire the younger kids to keep playing.”

Golz, who scored two goals in the game, reminisced about his time as a player at OPRF.

“My sophomore year, we beat Hinsdale Central and Lyons Township in overtime to win conference. Those were the two most memorable experiences I had.”

Wright has graduated over 150 players and many have since come back to play in the alumni game, he said.

Agboola to kick for UIC

Former OPRF soccer player Ekerin Agboola will be showcasing his talents for the University of Illinois at Chicago men’s soccer team this season.

The 6-foot-1, 185-pound Agboola, who graduated from OPRF in 2009 before spending a year in France training and backpacking, is listed as a freshman midfielder for the Flames.

“We recruited Ekerin out of high school due to his tremendous potential with the Chicago Fire Academy,” said UIC head coach Sean Phillips. “While he battled a few injuries during our spring season, he showed that his size, athleticism and soft touch will be great additions to the program in the midfield or backline.”

– Brad Spencer

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