By Bob Narang

Oswego senior Omar Carreno has a number of goals for his final high school season.

Carreno is pointing toward a victory over Oswego East, a championship appearance in the PepsiCo Showdown and a run in the Class 3A state tournament.

Thus far, Carreno and the Panthers are right on schedule.

By beating Thornton, West Chicago and Rockford East, the Panthers advanced to PepsiCo Showdown Championship Sunday at Robert Morris University’s Sports Complex in Arlington Heights. No. 1 seed Oswego, which will make its first PepsiCo Showdown title-game appearance since the event’s first year in 2003, will face upstart Woodstock in the U.S. Navy Bracket championship tilt.

In 2017, No. 2 seed Woodstock ended the campaign with an eye-opening 23-1 record and has nine starters back from that squad.  

“We’re really working together and playing as a team to get everyone involved,” Carreno said. “I worked hard in the offseason. I just want to help my team win.”

After scoring 25 goals and recording 13 assists as Oswego’s MVP last fall, Carreno is a marked man this season. Oswego coach Gaspar Arias points out that Carreno and Mason McCaw have formed a nice combination for the Panthers. The duo tallied two goals apiece in their team’s Final Four victory over Rockford East last weekend at PepsiCo Showdown Showcase Saturday in Joliet.

“Omar is playing really well,” Arias said. “He’s fast, really quick on his feet and able to dribble around two or three players.

“Mason is a really good player up top with Omar. They have a good combination and are very dangerous. Our defense also has been really good and getting stronger.”

Expectations were certainly high after the Panthers recorded a 15-4-2 record and did not lose a game in the Southwest Prairie Conference in 2017.

Johnny Kraemer, a senior and third-year varsity player, noted that the team’s chemistry is a hidden reason for the team’s success. The closeness of the team has helped overcome the loss of 12 seniors from last year’s squad.

“We are working well and moving the ball,” Kraemer said. “Our whole team, even everyone coming off the bench, is strong and can help us win. I hope we can win the final.”

Arias repeatedly credits his team winning six of its first nine matches due to playing together. Six starters return from last season.

“It’s all about chemistry,” Arias said. “We’re getting to know each other very well and playing as a team. We don’t have a superstar player who wants to be the main player. We play as a team. That’s the key to our success. We all work together and support each other.”

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