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December 21, 2014

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Ray Brewer: From the Pressbox

from the press box:

How a group of former Chap soccer players (that’s me) is helping the current team

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Stephen R. Sylvanie / Special to the Sun

Chaparral High School boys soccer coach Eric Rolwing addresses former and current Cowboys soccer players after a game between the two teams on Saturday morning at the school.

Chaparral Alumni Soccer

Chaparral Cowboys player Vince Gomez, right, heads the ball as Alejandro Valdez, center, defends his position against Chaparral High class of 1995 alumni Levi Parker during a game between past and present players held at the school on Saturday morning. Launch slideshow »

Back in the day some 20 years ago before my hairline started retreating at an alarming rate, I was an average soccer player on one of Nevada’s all-time great high school teams.

When the coach would ask me to enter the game, I’d race across the field to my position, eager to contribute in what turned out to be a storied season.

On Saturday, I wasn’t so eager.

When it was my turn to enter a charity game at Chaparral High School, my alma mater and a place that is very near and dear to my heart, my mind wanted to get back on the field to relive the glory days, but my body wasn’t fully cooperating.

Here’s my Al Bundy moment: In 1993, we went undefeated to win the state championship and finish ranked No. 3 by USA Today. We scored more than 100 goals while giving up fewer than 10. We didn’t play Polk High, but would have beat them, too.

That’s wasn’t the case during the alumni game. We geezers were out of shape, mostly overweight and no match for the energetic teens with fresh legs. Apparently, my physical condition was once that good.

Five decades of graduates participated — the oldest was someone from the class of 1977 smart enough to volunteer to play goalie because it involved less running.

The good news is we combined to raise $3,000 for the current team; the bad news is we lost, 7-2.

“The big moment for a lot of the (players) was when a guy from the class of 1977 came over,” Chaparral coach Eric Rolwing said. “When you factor in that guy was playing high school soccer here 20 years before they were born, that was a surreal thing for them.”

Having the old-timers spent part of their weekend giving back was more important than the money they brought with them. It shows the current team, which has improved from just a few victories each fall when Rolwing took over three years ago to a playoff berth last season, there’s a group of people cheering from a distance.

Regardless of the outcome, they remain loyal to the orange and black and will celebrate the players for their effort in good times and bad.

The money will help provide basic equipment upgrades, keeping them on an even playing field with other teams. Rolwing hopes to buy dry-fit practice jerseys for his players so they have something to wear during warmups on game days, and he would use the leftover money for a proper end-of-the-year banquet. Last year, the team dined potluck-style on campus.

The players deserve more than a nice shirt and a good meal.

They have the same dreams of greatness we did 20 years ago and are working their hardest to put a quality product on the field. The game was important to show the school’s tradition of striving for excellence is alive and well — and how playing for the Cowboys is a privilege.

A few years back, someone I just met told me I was from the “ghetto” because I went to Chaparral. That person had no idea of the school’s glory years. We were like Centennial and Coronado are now: good at everything on and off the field.

Sure, Chaparral has changed economically in the past two decades as the neighborhood has declined, which has crippled the Cowboys’ athletic teams. Participation is low, victories are hard to come by and school spirit is lacking.

But that is slowly changing thanks to coaches such as Rolwing, softball’s A.J. Coleman and football’s Bill Froman, and principal Dave Wilson. Wilson was hired three years ago for the turnaround project, when Chaparral was one of three underachieving high schools in the Clark County School District that received federal money to help upgrade facilities and resources with the goal of improving test scores and graduation rates.

Click to enlarge photo

From left to right: Former Chaparral Cowboys soccer players Levi Parker, Danny Welsh and Billy Hayes get together to celebrate a Welsh goal scored against the current Cowboys roster at the school on Saturday.

Alumni haven’t hesitated to help. The baseball and football programs have hosted fundraisers to stay afloat in recent years, and the alumni association is constantly active in finding donations for basic school supplies.

Danny Welsh, the youngest of eight children in his family to attend Chaparral, spent two years coordinating the alumni game. He spread the word to former players, coordinated with Rolwing, ordered shorts and socks for alumni, and was aggressive is soliciting donations. He was even able to get former players living out of the area to donate. One former player traveled from California to participate, part of about 20 former players and 50 fans in attendance.

“We owe a lot to Chaparral, and the program needed our help,” Welsh said. “That Cowboy pride we talk about runs deep. It’s crazy the amount of excitement and people that got involved."

On Saturday, they showed it was cool to still love Chaparral.

Former players brought their families — some even brought parents — and others graduates not affiliated with the soccer team showed up after hearing about the event on social media. One of those fans was Randy Minigal, the coach of our championship team and Nevada’s all-time winningest soccer coach, which was a thrill for all.

The graduates have promised the support won’t stop with the game. Former players are coordinating to attend Chaparral’s season opener, and Welsh will post results on a Chaparral soccer alumni Facebook page he created. Others raved about how talented the current players are and didn’t hesitate giving pointers after the game.

For junior goalie Gerardo Skewes-Olvera, spending a few moments rubbing shoulders with players from yesteryear was a thrill. He quickly learned about Cowboy pride.

“It was nice seeing the tradition and the friendship, and how there were happier times,” he said.

Ray Brewer can be reached at 990-2662 or [email protected]. Follow Ray on Twitter at twitter.com/raybrewer21.

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