Green Forest players selected to all-star teams
The Green Forest Tiger soccer team has a lot of talent coming back from a team that went to the Class 4A state tournament a year ago. The Tigers have even more talent coming up in the years to follow.
Green Forest elementary schoolers Jonathan Rivera, Adrian Ortiz and Jafet Fuentes all helped the Rogers 10-and under team claim the ESPN Cup this past weekend in Kansas City, Mo. Also, Green Forest eighth-grader Emerson Ortiz played goalkeeper and his cousin Brian Escobar, a forward, competed on the Rogers 14-and under team. They also won first place. Additionally, Green Forest High School players Huvense Rivas, Belinda Pineda and Rubi Perez were selected to join the Arkansas Comets Soccer Club, one of the premier soccer clubs in Arkansas.
Many of these athletes have been a part of the Green Forest recreational soccer program since a young age, but volunteer coach Rob Kerby said that they have participated in other leagues around the area.
"We have a bunch of kids that go play in a church league over in Springdale that is sponsored by St. Raphael Church and our Green Forest team has either won or come in second over and over and over," Kerby said. "The kids started attracting some attention."
Green Forest High School coach Jonathan Bryant said this is a tremendous honor for Pineda, Perez and Rivas.
"Getting to be a part of this futbol club is a very distinct honor," Bryant said. "I know they are excited. I'm glad they are getting to put Green Forest soccer on the map. I can't be more proud of them. It's their work ethic that has gotten them where they are. Saying that we have three representatives from such a small school is a statement all in itself."
The Arkansas Comets recently got back from the United States Southern Regional in South Carolina. Kerby believes this will give the high school players a great chance to get noticed by soccer coaches at the next level.
"One of the biggest things that being on the Comets will do, and it's because of their status as state champions, is that they will be invited to college showcases and things like that," Kerby said. "This is a big deal that they will get to go to these things and have college coaches see and know about them."
Of the younger kids, Kerby said he is proud of the progress Adrian Ortiz has made at such a young age.
"He has been a standout," Kerby said. "I have never seen anything like it. He has been a prodigy since preschool. He was so good that we had to let him play under age since 3 years old because he was killing everybody. Last spring we took a bunch of kids to a tournament over in Eureka Springs and he tagged along with the under 14-year olds. He was unhappy he was having to watch so we let him play and he was coming up to everyone's waist and against Bergman he scored three times. We had to pull him out because it was so deflating to Bergman. The call Adrian little Messi."
The Arkansas Comets will work with Rivas, Pineda and Perez through late summer. Bryant hopes the players will come away with leadership skills that will help the Green Forest program moving forward.
"I hope they can make our entire program better and not just for a couple of kids," Bryant said. "They have the talent to do that."
As a coach, Bryant is looking forward to the younger soccer players moving up to the high school level.
"There is talent galore in this little town for soccer," Bryant said. "It's kind of like those bigger programs where they never lose players, they just replace."
Kerby has been a volunteer coach for a number of years and said he is glad that he has been able to develop a relationship with soccer clubs in bigger cities.
"Sometimes, especially in a little-bitty town, it's hard to provide all the opportunities that you need to for extremely talented kids," Kerby said. "When you have a kid with a lot of talent it's important to have those resources and we are fortunate enough to be able to provide those resources."
Kerby is excited to see these athletes get opportunities to be successful and grow as soccer players.
"Many of these kids have never had a person in their family go to college before and to know that they will go to college on a free ride and have successful professional careers is incredibly rewarding," Kerby said. "You look at our alumni list, Henry Penida, that is Belinda's big brother. He went on to get a full ride at Williams Baptist College and he is the first person ever to go to college from their family. We have got many other kids that are doing great. To know that we gave them a chance and made an opportunity for someone who is very talented, nothing can touch that."