By Bob Narang

Brother Rice goalie Oscar Cerritos was an easy player to spot at the 18th Annual PepsiCo Showdown College Showcase held on Super Bowl Sunday.

At 6-foot-3 wearing an all-black outfit, Cerritos made sure his play matched his attire and towering presence. The junior was among the 100s of aspiring boys and girls soccer players from throughout Illinois and Wisconsin that attended the popular high school combine in hopes of attracting attention from college coaches at the event held just outside of Chicago at The Max in McCook.

Cerritos said it was his first time attending the high-profile event, which featured recruiters from numerous states and levels.

“It’s been very challenging and fun to be here,” said Cerritos, who played in three games and received direct coaching in the goalie combine from Camp Shutout founder and UIC goalie coach Stan Anderson. “It was great to meet new guys with the same passion. Everyone is trying to compete.”

Cerritos, who has been playing soccer his entire life, noted that the one-day event and coaching by Anderson was an invaluable tool toward achieving his goal of playing soccer in college.

“I learned that communication is very important,” Cerritos said. “As a goalie, you are the guy that sees the whole field. You know more than other people, so you have to help them out and make sure they are doing things right. At end of the day, it’s about the team.”

Watskea junior Andrew Heuring made the long trek to attend the showcase for the first time after hearing positive reviews from friends who had attended in the past.

“It was definitely a good decision to come here,” Heuring said. “I really love it here.

“I already learned a lot of new drills for practice, but mostly talking and talking all the time. It’s about being loud and active. Coach Anderson really knows what he’s doing.”

Heuring added that competing against a wide range of players with different skills sets was beneficial for his game, which was vital for his communication and leadership.

“I learned with all the boys out here to be talkative and aggressive,” Heuring said. “There were a lot of great players here. It was great to learn their games, names, new playing styles and how everything meshes. But talking was the most important thing I learned.”

Anderson, wearing a Camp Shutout gray mask, expressed the importance for players to attend showcase events, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is cool for them to be here,” said Anderson, whose birthday also was on Super Bowl Sunday. “Kids in Illinois are leaving to play elsewhere during the pandemic.

“It doesn’t make it right or wrong, but it’s safe for them to come here and play. Everyone has their masks on and doing what is needed to keep everyone healthy and safe.

“This is a great event for kids to be playing competitively. It’s refreshing to be here.

“The kids are able to showcase themselves with so many college coaches here. It helps kids have a shot at getting to the next level that might not be seen. And there’s no doubt this is great for goalies to be put on display, to be seen and noticed.”

One of Anderson’s assistants was Benedictine junior goalie Dominic Wistocki, who played in the showcase during his prep career at Lockport. He spent most of the morning instructing goalies on the need to communicate and be active. It marked the third time that Wistocki coached at the event.

“Stan has always taught me to be extremely vocal,” Wistocki said. “I told the guys here that they have to do anything they can do to get the attention of (college coaches). Whether that’s communication, footwork, shot stopping or any aspect that they are good at, that’s what they need to showcase the most.”

Bio on reporter: Bob Narang has been covering prep recruiting and sports for the past 26 years. His work also appears in the Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald and the DeKalb Daily Chronicle.