For the second year in a row, the Morris Community High School soccer program hosted an alumni day on Saturday. It culminated in a match featuring former Redskins against the current varsity squad.
While last year the Morris varsity won 7-1, the “old guys” turned the tables on that outcome this year, winning the contest held on the Redskins football field by a 3-1 score.
There were theories as to the turnabout of the outcome from last year to this.
“Today I’m missing three starters who are out on vacation,” Morris coach and event organizer David Valdivia said. “But it’s another good chance to get these guys (the varsity) another game. A chance to work on formations and other things that we need to work on.”
Former Morris player and coach Nate Cote thinks that a larger turnout by younger alumni may have also played a role in their win.
“This year we are quite younger,” Cote said before the game. “I think we can take them (the varsity) this year.”
The match started well enough for the Morris varsity, even after several solid saves by alumni keeper Shane Dare at the onset. However, junior Ricardo Del Toro broke the scoreless tie off an assist by fellow junior Luke Rodriguez.
But the alumni was persistent and got goals from Ryan Pletch (class of 2008), who got past his younger brother Tyler on the Morris varsity and a pair of goals by Carlos Delgado (class of 2000). The first Delgado score was low left and the second came with an assist from, Jose Banuelos (class of 1999).
“It was an amazing turnout with 30 alumni members returning for plenty of playing time and to remake some good memories,” Valdivia said. “If it wasn’t for the former players, we wouldn’t be where we are now. I can only wait to see how much our program will grow. I’d like to thank all of them for coming out, Sue Pletch for helping out and the (Morris) JV team for helping set up.”
Several years ago, the first alumni game was created by then-coach Ron Lear.
“This is something I created last year, though we did do it one year when coach Lear was here,” Valdivia said. “It’s something that we put together to help support the soccer program. It’s a good way to bring back the older guys. A chance for them to play a fun game against the varsity team and at the same time to help build the program.”
The captain of the alumni team was Cote. He said that he likes the concept of having such an occasion.
“I like the idea of an alumni game. It’s something we did a couple of years ago and then restarted it again a year ago,” he said. “It’s the younger guys playing against the older guys.”
The 30 members of the alumni team ranged from players who played on last year’s regional championship team, all the way back to the original team in 1999.
“The turnout is about the same as it was last year,” Valdivia said. “There’s some younger guys here and some older guys like David and Dan Goode. David played in 2004 and also here from 2004 is Phil Tedford and Nate Cote.”
The rundown of the players in action for the former Redskins on Saturday (with graduation class) included Banuelos (1999), Delgado (2000), Tedford (2004), Cote (2004), David Goode (2004), Dell Howell (2005), Dan Goode (2006), Hieberto Delgado (2006), Evan Williams (2007), Mike Foster (2008), Ryan Pletch (2008), Carl Monk (2009), Shane Dare (2009), Matt Mortello (2009), Zach Verchimak (2010), William Del Toro (2011), Colton Kelly (2011), Kalin Howell (2011), Cory Komperda (2012), Kevin Wendling (2012), Kyle Hall (2012), Jeff Galang (2012), Jon Opyt (2012), Rigo Ochoa (2012), Fernando Del Toro (2013), Michael Grommen (2013), Kade Bashor (2013), Jacob Komperda (2013), Zach Harper (2013) and Zach Larson (2013).
“Some of these guys I still play soccer with. Places like Chicago and over in Ottawa,” Cote said. “Other guys are here that I played with (in high school) and some of them I coached.”
Soccer is forever
“I’ve been telling the team that soccer is for life. It’s like running and basketball,” Valdivia said. “Those are things you keep on doing. It doesn’t have to stop for these guys after graduation here.”
On top of getting to play on Morris’ home turf once again, Valdivia said that there are other benefits to being an active Morris alumnus.
“Something like this also helps the alumni for networking. This sport is forever and it helps the guys if they want to continue playing,” Valdivia said. “I’m setting up a Facebook group so that way they all know if a team needs players somewhere. Either here or in Chicago. That way they can go and play.”
I’ll be back
Though he was not in attendance this year, former Morris coach and current Plainfield North athletic director Lear helped set the tone and was on hand last year to coach the alumni team.
“Last year coach Lear (coached), but there isn’t (a coach) this year,” Valdivia said. “Usually, I’ll have an assistant coach here to help the guys sub on the fly. They’ll just sub on the fly when they get tired (Friday).”
Valdivia thinks that if the turnout continues to rise like it did from the first year to the second, the alumni just might also play a game on their own.
“I want to thank all the alumni for coming out and if we keep interest, we might just do an alumni vs. alumni game since we had enough for two teams,” Valdivia said. “We plan on doing this every year now. It will be on the last weekend before the (high school) blackout date.”
Cote said the support for the soccer program shows that its healthy.
“It’s good to see the program is continuing to be supported by these guys. Even after graduating high school and college,” Cote said. “Valdivia has done a good job with it. This is the biggest turnout so far.”
Morris senior Matt Thayer said that he likes getting the chance to play such Redskins legends.
“Actually, it’s really fun. We get the chance to see guys we’ve never played with,” Thayer said. “Then we also get to see other guys we have played with. It’s nice to see how good they are and how slow they’ve gotten.”
Slow? Maybe Thayer should be careful how he puts that, especially since he might be out there someday.
“Oh definitely,” Thayer said. “Next year after I’ve gone on and graduated I want to come back and play.”