By Bob Narang

Nathan Torres had a specific agenda for Black Friday.

The Carbondale sophomore defender mapped out a precise game plan to maximize his time to aid his future.

Rather than shopping for electronics or clothing on Friday, Torres spent the popular post-holiday period participating in the 17th Annual College Showcase. The one-day annual event, presented by Buddy’s HELPERS, featured 100-plus men’s and women’s college soccer coaches scouting 300 high school boys and girls prospects at The Max in McCook.

Torres, who scored one goal and tallied seven assists this season, said he convinced his mother to make the nearly five-hour drive to help him enhance his chances to get noticed by a college recruiter.

“We left on Thanksgiving and got here early to explore Chicago,” Torres said. “We’re going to stay an extra day, go around and leave on Saturday morning.

“My mom will probably go shopping, but we’re here for soccer. It was fun going out there, playing against the best, meeting new people and playing in front of college coaches.”

Torres admitted the one-day showcase was a worthwhile experience, especially since he sacrificed part of his holiday and endured a long drive.

“My high school coach (Jeff Hansen) called over some people and said, ‘I think you have the potential to play in college, and the showcase is a great experience for you to attend,” Torres said. “There were a lot of colleges coming and if we wanted to be spotted, this is the place to go.”

Oakwood/Salt Fork freshman midfielder Reef Pacot was another player who traveled a significant distance to attend the showcase, which is run in conjunction with the widely popular PepsiCo Showdown, which host high school girls (April) and boys (Sept.) soccer tournaments each year.

“I woke up around 4 a.m., because we drove on the same day to get here,” Pacot said. “Most of my friends are shopping today, but my coach invited us to come here. I came here to play, have fun and get noticed.”

Fellow freshman teammate Grant Powell, a midfielder, also made the nearly three-hour trek to be involved. With numerous coaches from several different states lined up on the sidelines watching prospects play in a late-morning match, Powell said the one-day showcase is a must-attend event for high school soccer players.

“It’s such a long drive, but a great opportunity to come here and show what I can do,” Powell said. “I want to hopefully play in college down the road. I know this will help me.”

Peoria Notre Dame senior goalie Lucas Fontana is on the other end of the spectrum compared to Torres, Pacot and Powell. Fontana wrapped up a stellar season and career for the Irish, allowing a mere eight goals and recorded 14 shutouts to help lead his team to a 22-2 record and Class 2A supersectional berth.

After missing his entire junior season because of an injury, Fontana wanted to improve his skills by participating in the goalie combine ran by Stan Anderson from Camp Shutout and play against different competition.

“This was my first time here,” he said. “The training was really good, and it was a great experience with the music playing and all the instruction we got.

“Seeing all these coaches here was exciting. Coming out to an event like this will only help me.”

Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep sports for the past 24 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald, Athlon Sports and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.