A Salute to Shane

10 area high school soccer teams gathered on Saturday at Northeast High School for the Second Annual Shane Kelly Memorial Soccer Showcase. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES

By John Knebels

For the Times

A little less than three years ago, an utterly senseless crime ended the life of Shane Kelly. The people who loved the 2003 Frankford High School graduate still bristle when thinking about Kelly’s death at the hands of a gunman during a bungled robbery in Fishtown.

However, for the past two years, the Shane Kelly Memorial Soccer Showcase has provided some much-needed relief to those permanently affected by the November 2011 tragedy. It has allowed his loved ones to celebrate the many accomplishments during Kelly’s 26 years.

“There were three things that meant the most to Shane,” said event organizer Chris Jones, the Public League soccer chairman and dean of students at Samuel Fels High School who was a close friend of Kelly’s for almost two decades, the two of them having lived less than a mile from each other.

“One was charity, one was having a passion for soccer and one was having a passion for friends and family. This event means the world to me because all three of them were a central part of the day.”

On a rainy and cloudy Saturday, the second annual Showcase brought 10 soccer teams — all but four of them based in the Northeast — together for a five-game extravaganza. All of the proceeds will go to the Shane Kelly Memorial Scholarship Fund. Last year’s collection of $4,000 was surpassed by this year’s $5,000. Just like last year, four college grants will be awarded to local players.

While the coaches are keenly conscious of what the Showcase represents, some players may not understand the magnitude of what this does for Kelly’s families and friends.

“I’m not sure about the kids, but I know their parents are aware of what happened and why this is so wonderful and important,” said Brianna O’Donnell, the girls soccer coach at Franklin Towne Charter. “It happened not far from our school, and it was a very big thing for the neighborhood. It’s something that remains in people’s minds.”

When Jones called O’Donnell to ask if she was interested in participating, she immediately answered in the affirmative. So even after the FTC girls allowed a 2–1 deficit to spiral out of control midway through the second half en route to a 5–1 defeat to Springside Chestnut Hill Academy, O’Donnell didn’t mind as much as she might have under normal circumstances. The two teams were the first two girls squads to play in the event.

“We actually didn’t play badly, but I was happy for our girls for other reasons,” the sixth-year coach said of her team. “This was something that transcended sports. It was great soccer for a great cause.”

O’Donnell was also pleased because the FTC boys and girls usually play their games at the same time or simultaneously at different venues. After both squads met for breakfast at school on Saturday morning, they then enjoyed a rare chance to watch each other and root accordingly. Though the FTC boys also lost — 3–1 to George Washington — a special experience was had by all.

“I hope we get invited again,” O’Donnell said. “I’m already looking forward to it.”

Two area coaches were able to celebrate victories.

Led by junior Adin Hernandez-Carrera’s two goals, Northeast stunned Archbishop Ryan, 4–1. Winning coach Kraig Feldman, who inherited Northeast’s coaching reins from his father, Sam, two years ago following his dad’s 14-year career, does not recall hearing his father ever speak about Northeast meeting Archbishop Ryan for a boys soccer game. He wondered if this was the first time the two teams had faced each other.

“We were really fired up for the game,” Feldman said. “We had a great opportunity to showcase our team and we were anxious to show what we could do on the field.”

Feldman said his players “understood the importance of the day” and recognized that Kelly, a fierce advocate of Public League soccer, would have understood their zeal for soccer. This was supported when the Vikings stayed behind to await and then watch the final game on the schedule — Father Judge vs. Central — a battle between the respective defending Catholic League and Public League champions, and a rematch of last year’s District 12 final that ended with Judge winning 1–0.

This time, Judge emerged victorious again, a 2–0 final highlighted by senior Cole Speiser’s first-half goal and sophomore Billy Checkovage’s second-half insurance tally.

Dunlop said that the Crusaders were “given a heads-up about what this game was all about.”

“It’s symbolic in several ways,” Dunlop said. “Shane Kelly did a lot for his community, and we are a service-oriented school, so it was special to play a game with such a great cause. These guys are young but they understand the bigger picture. They respect the game, and I think that is what was great about all of the teams that played. They were good representations for something like this. It was an honor to play in it.”

Next year, Jones said they will definitely organize a third annual celebration.

“Shane was all about getting people together for lots of different reasons,” said Jones, Frankford High’s 2002–03 class president. “This was true especially as he got older. He would have absolutely loved something like this.” ••

Soccer smiles: Father Judge was one of 10 teams to play in Saturday’s second annual Shane Kelly Memorial Soccer Showcase. The tournament, featuring six teams from the area, was played at Northeast High School to honor the memory of Kelly, a former soccer star at Frankford who was killed in 2011. BILL ACHUFF / FOR THE TIMES