Pepsi notebook: A mini World Cup

By Bob Narang

Prep Sports Report – CornerkicksMedia.com

Since 2003, the Showdown Series presented by PepsiCo has thrilled high school fans by offering top-level competition and interesting matchups, including many unique storylines on the teams. When the massive event kicks off this weekend ahead of its National launch in 2022, there’s no doubt the 19th annual event will produce memories on and off the field.

RAUNER PREP IS ALL SMILES THANKS TO RAMIREZ

Earlier this month, Rauner’s (Chicago) Francisco Ramirez celebrated his 18th birthday with a party. The midfielder would love to add another celebration in the near future: A championship celebration.

Ramirez has been counting the days waiting for this weekend to kickoff.

“We’re all excited about playing in the PepsiCo Showdown,” Ramirez said. “I want to take my team to the final.”

The senior, who has recorded 24 goals and 11 assists during his high school career, is a three-time captain. Known as “smiley” on the team, coach Maggie Orlowski said Ramirez has been a consistent staple for the Chicago Public School (CPS) charter.

“Francisco is always lifting the team and smiling when he plays,” Orlowski said. “He’s a leader on and off the field.”

STORYLINES EVERYWHERE FOR NAPERVILLE CENTRAL

Naperville Central sophomore defender Patrick Bohan helped lead Eclipse Select to the ECNL National Championship this summer.

“Even in kindergarten, soccer was the sport I wanted to stay with,” said Bohan, who is playing his first season on the varsity team. “I’m really enjoying the challenge of playing against older kids and hope in the future to put my stamp on the program.”

Coach Troy Adams said Bohan is a well-round student-athlete with “a bright future at the school in both the classroom and the field.”

“I’m very excited to play in the PepsiCo Showdown against top teams we wouldn’t normally get to compete against,” said Bohan, who also wrestles. “I’m also looking forward to the opportunity, along with my teammates, to give back to the community supported through PepsiCo.”

The Redhawks also have a pair of legacy players in Alex Poole and Tomas McCormack. Both had brothers who played on the 2013 Naperville Central team  — Daniel Poole and Jordi McCormack — which finished third in Class 3A.

A FAMILY AFFAIR

Following the graduation of star Jack Swicionis in the spring, Lyons (LaGrange) now has just two family members on the squad in juniors Ben and Will Swicionis.

“We’re excited to keep the Swicionis’ soccer legacy alive for two more years,” Lyons coach Paul Labbato said. “Ben and Will’s talent and tenacity will surely contribute to the success of Lyons over the next two years.”

Their father, Jim, also was an all-state player for rival Morton in 1988.

CHECKOUT THE FAMILY T-SHIRTS

Located a few minutes away from Chicago’s stunning lakefront, Senn (Chicago) is one of the most diverse teams in the 19th annual event. The CPS program has 15 different languages spoken throughout its program, according to coach Steven Brewer.

The Bulldogs’ roster consists of 20 players, with 13 of those players born in another country and five others who transferred to the Northwest Side school.

“Our school is a sanctuary school, and our neighborhood is where immigrants come to set up a new life in Chicago,” said Brewer, who also serves as athletic director. “Many of our players have the skills from playing in the streets in their home country, but had never played on an actual team.

“We make practice shirts every year that say “Family. That word is on the back in the languages spoken on our team. We’ll wear them at the PepsiCo Showdown this year.”

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.