By LARRY GAGE
Special to the PRESS
Twelve Port Isabel High soccer players have made the All-District 32-4A list.
Named to the All-District First Team were forward Williams Romero, midfielder Nathan Berman, and defender Brian Palestina. Selected to the second team were forward Jonathan Rivera, defenders Fernando Pardo and Leonardo Bravo, and goalkeeper Saul Beltran. Midfielders Celso Callejas and Giovani Garcia and defender Denilson Lozano were named to the Honorable Mention list. Also making Honorable Mention for the Tarpons were defender Fulgencio Cabanas and center-midfielder Edgardo Gonzalez.
“Those two kids – very dependable on the field … good leaders. They were very dedicated,” Hernandez said, describing Bravo and Palestina.
“He’ll (Pardo) also be a senior next year – works hard, good leader.”
“He’s very competitive,” said of Nathan Berman. “He’s a good soccer player who has a good future ahead of him.”
All of the above players were underclassmen during the school year and will return next year. “We were a young team,” head Tarpon soccer coach Sal Hernandez told the Press this week. “We didn’t have any seniors on the team. We’ll have a lot of seniors coming back – a lot of experience for the team.”
Port Isabel finished the season with a 5-3 record in district play, 11-5-1 overall, and made the playoffs as the No.3 seed from District 32-4A. In their first-round playoff game the Tarpons fell to Zapata, 4-3. Progreso was the district champion and made it to the third round of the playoffs, and the Red Ants were the only team to place more players, 17, on the all-district list than Port Isabel.
With all these players returning for next season Hernandez believes the team can contend for the district title; “We have a good chance,” he said.
There is a summer program for high school soccer in the Valley and some Tarpon players will be taking part. “It’s like a club sport and they’ll be playing those big schools from Brownsville,” Hernandez said this week. “It’s very competitive. It’ll give the kids a good chance to get ready for the season.”
The summer season lasts for about two months and the kids are on their own, as no coaches are allowed.
Many of Hernandez’s players are not active in any other sports. “At least 80 percent of the kids I have, all they do is play soccer. I’ve had a lot of kids who were born in the U.S., who started playing football first. Then they went into soccer when they got to high school.”
Hernandez acknowledged the wide popularity of soccer in the Hispanic community; “Most of the kids I have are Hispanic and they like the game. I also have Nathan Berman, who’s from the Dallas area. I heard from him that soccer there is even bigger than football, and in some schools soccer is the most popular sport.”
Hernandez is a 1994 graduate of Port Isabel High. Soccer was a not an organized inter-scholastic sport in Port Isabel at the time, so he played club soccer in Brownsville. He made the team at Park University in Kansas City, left school after two years there and served three years in the Army. He returned to his roots in the Valley and graduated from UTB.
This is Hernandez’s sixth year as head coach of the soccer program at Port Isabel High. The program has been in existence for ten years, and two seasons ago the Tarpons were district champions.
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