Cardinals prepare to fly high in alumni soccer game

The fourth annual Cardinal Dougherty Soccer Alumni game will take over Bill Henfey Park July 21.

Bob Wright and Maureen Hawkins battle for the ball during the alumni game. SUPPLIED PHOTO

For true Cardinals, it’s the perfect appetizer as they take over North Wildwood.

On Saturday, July 21, before the annual Soar at the Shore all-class reunion, the fourth annual Cardinal Dougherty Soccer Alumni game will take over Bill Henfey Park at 8th and Central avenues.

“It’s gotten bigger and better every year,” said Steve Schmidt, president of the Cardinal Dougherty Soccer Alumni. “If you look at the pictures, the first year we had a lot of players, then we had even more last year. This year, we’ll have even more. It just gets bigger, both the game and the crowd. We draw really well.”

This year, the game will celebrate a pair of Cardinals who passed away. Jim Melia, class of 1980, and Mary Bell, class of 1992, who died this year, will be honored at the game.

And while they will be in everyone’s hearts, the game is also about fun and seeing great players from the school that closed in 2010 get back on the field and do their thing.

According to Schmidt, what makes the game great is seeing all of the people from many different classes competing like they’re playing for the coveted Catholic League championship.

“There are guys who play in this game who are playing in front of their grandkids,” Schmidt said. “These kids probably would never have seen their grandfather play soccer if it wasn’t for this game. But we just want to have a great event to kick off the Soar at the Shore.

“We piggyback off the Soar at the Shore. That’s a great event. When we were talking about doing this, I said there were two places we could play this game and have a great crowd. One was in the parking lot of a bar in Northeast Philadelphia, the other was in North Wildwood during Soar at the Shore.”

Another highlight of the event is the announcement of the next hall of fame class. During halftime of the game, Schmidt will announce the Class of 2018, which is the third class of hall of famers. The players will be inducted Oct. 28 at the FOP. The alumni game starts at 10:30 a.m. with registration starting at 10.

The first year, Peter Austin, Paul Braden, Tom Brogan, Jim “Cooch” Coleman, Frank Gillespie, George Lesyw, Matthew “Mackie” Kelly, William McGroarty, Anthony O’Neill, Mike Pio, Maureen Hawkins-Teal and Jack Smith were inducted. Last year, Tim Brogan, Chalie Cutilio, James Davis, Hugh McInaw, Vinnie Kelly and Jim “Dinky” Linus were enshrined.

“This year, we’re putting the 1968 team in the hall of fame and everyone knows that, we made that public,” Schmidt said. “We didn’t release the other ones because we like it to be a nice moment for the players. It’s one of the highlights of the game.”

Schmidt loves the event because the Dougherty grad loves all things garnet and gold. That why, three years ago, he got together with Larry Teal, who was the last soccer coach and athletic director at the school, and fellow Cardinal Paul Lukert to plan the alumni game.

But it’s turned into much more than that.

Now, the game is fun, but the real pleasure Schmidt gets is helping other people. And through the alumni game, he’s able to give money to people who need it.

The game is as much a fundraiser as it is an event. Through donations and selling items such as T-shirts, Schmidt and the group have handed out more than $22,000 in scholarships since it started.

This year, the plan is to raise more money and help more people.

“You can go anywhere in the world and you’ll run into a Dougherty grad,” Schmidt said. “It’s great to help people, and we don’t just help Dougherty people. We help those who need it.

“The first year, I drove down there $1,500 in debt. This year, we know going in we raised money and we’re going to be able to help a lot of people in need. And that’s even better than the soccer game.”

That being said, the game is still a huge highlight.

“The players give it everything they have,” Schmidt said. “I look at some photos and you see these players playing like it’s the Catholic League playoffs. They’re just going out there and trying to win.

“This is a great day. The Soar at the Shore gets everyone in town, and then we give them something to do in the morning. It’s a lot of work, but it’s for a great cause and it’s a great time. Any way we can celebrate Dougherty, it’s something we want to do.”