The sweltering heat and humidity may have kept many Oak Park residents inside enjoying the AC, but for about 40 former OPRF High School soccer players the heat was not an excuse to refuse to lace up for the Fourth Annual Alumni Soccer Game.
The event served as a chance for the players to catch-up and as a fundraiser for the OPRF boys soccer program, all on the backdrop of a high-scoring, well-played soccer match.
The teams were divided up by graduation year with even numbered years on Orange and odd numbered years on Blue — as they have been for the last three years. In a hotly contested, goal-infested game, Orange came away with a 6-4 victory.
Orange opened up the scoring with a long-range goal by recent graduate and future Wheaton College player Stephen Golz, who took possession of the ball and fired a shot past goalkeeper and 2011 graduate Sam Euler. The Orange’s lead was short lived as Michael Rajter and Stephen Golz’s older brother, Drew, scored one apiece for Blue.
Orange responded quickly in the start of the second half with a string of goals. The scoring barrage began with a thunderous goal off a header by Aaron Press, who received the ball on a well-placed cross. Press rose up and smashed the ball into the back of the net. He scored twice more for Orange, who netted five unanswered goals.
Blue did muster up a fight at the end of the game with a goal by Paul Daly to make it 6-3. A lighter moment came when 2008 graduate Steve Compere, referred to playfully by head coach Paul Wright as “Big Steve” scored a goal. Instead of counting it as one goal on the scoreboard at OPRF Stadium, Wright counted the goal as three goals to make the score 6-6 when in reality it was merely a 6-4 win by Orange.
For Wright, the event was more than just a way for the former players to break a sweat and hit the pitch after years away from the game. The event is a chance for Wright’s former players to rekindle the relationships they had as players and a networking opportunity for the players to connect when seeking employment and/or educational opportunities.
“I always think of the event as a chance for the guys to re-ignite the flame they had as teammates, to catch up after months or years, and just reminiscing about memorable times they had as soccer players and as friends,” he said. “Many of these guys have grown up to become great friends of mine, as I learn from them and they learn from me.”
Participants ranged from recent 2012 graduates such as Dan Pasternak and Mike Bower to older players such as current OPRF girls soccer head coach Ignacio Ponce.
One of Wright’s former players, Jacob Forman, a 2007 OPRF graduate and recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, reflected on the special nature of his return to OPRF.
“I want to give back to the program that gave so much to me as a player, a person, and as a student,” said the former Huskie, who also reminisced about the team-bonding trip his group went on while in high school. “The trip allowed all of us to come together and to learn about each other. That speaks to how much the program has given to me.”