Michael McCusker grew up loving sports.
So much in fact that when his dad was the girls basketball coach at Archbishop Ryan High School, he would often tag along. And when the court was free for a few seconds, he grabbed his ball and practiced his jumper.
But now when he goes to Academy Road, he’s the bad guy.
McCusker is a two-sport star at Father Judge, the biggest rival of the Raiders. The Somerton resident loved both schools when he was in eighth grade, but he made the decision to become a Crusader.
It’s one he’s very happy with.
“It was tough at first because I went to St. Chris’, and a lot of kids went to Ryan, a lot of my friends,” McCusker said. “I was nervous about my decision, I loved Judge when I shadowed there, but going there was definitely the right call.
“I love everything about Judge. The players. The coaches. It’s a great school. It’s done a lot for me.”
And McCusker has done a lot for the Crusaders.
He’s been a star shooting guard on the basketball team since his sophomore year, and this year, he’s once again leading the soccer team to some fun, albeit sometimes too close, victories.
McCusker scored 12 goals and added two assists this year as Judge wrapped up first place in the very competitive Catholic League. And on Friday, he and his teammates fended off a very tough St. Joe’s Prep team in the quarterfinals.
After a scoreless regulation and overtime, Judge advanced by outscoring the Hawks 5-3 in penalty kicks to advance to Wednesday’s semifinal. There, Judge will meet Conwell-Egan, which upset Archbishop Wood 1-0 in another quarterfinal.
The other game will feature Archbishop Ryan meeting La Salle. That game will start after the first one, also at Ramp.
It wasn’t the way McCusker and his mates thought they would advance, but the important thing is they live to play another game. And they hope many more.
“I thought this game, I think most of us thought we could score two or three goals, go home and be normal,” McCusker said. “We knew they were good, but they were very, very good. When regular time ended, most of us were scared. I think penalty kicks are anyone’s game. Anyone can do it under pressure. Anyone’s game, any five shooters and you never know what the result would be.
“Our guys did great, our goalie and shooters. The Catholic League is so tough, anyone can beat anyone, but Prep really played great. After (the clinching goal) we all ran out, it felt great. It felt awesome. Prep played great, they had nothing to lose, played a full 100 minutes and were great out there. We didn’t expect this, but it feels really great to go on.”
This is the second year in a row the Crusaders are heading into the semifinals. Last year, they won, sending them to the finals where they fell to a very good La Salle team in a tight game.
Last year, Judge was good, but young. This year, those young stars are veterans and the goal is to bring home a Catholic League championship.
A win over Conwell-Egan on Wednesday at 4 p.m. at Ramp Playground would get them back to the championship.
“We have to play like they’re a great team because they are,” McCusker said. “They’re really good. Everyone in the Catholic League this year was good. And last year I don’t think many people expected us to go. I didn’t think we would go.”
This year, he fully believes the Crusaders have what it takes to win a championship. And as a starting midfielder and captain, he hopes he can contribute to a memorable year for the Crusaders.
“I really believe we can win a PCL championship,” McCusker said. “Winning it would mean the world to us. I love Judge. I play for the name on the front of my jersey. Judge means everything to me. Winning a championship for Judge, the players, the coaches, the school, it means everything.”
The Crusaders still have soccer to play, and after that it’s time to break out the basketballs.
While Judge’s basketball team has been busy preparing for the winter, McCusker has only been there as a spectator. He can’t join the team until soccer is over, which is tough at times.
“I wish I could play, but I can’t do both,” McCusker said. “We’re going to be a lot better. We were good last year, we competed with some very good teams, but we’re going to be better this year. I think we’re going to be pretty good.”
After basketball season and graduation, McCusker will continue his athletic career in college, most likely soccer. He’s unsure where he’ll play.
“Soccer is my main sport, but if you ask me in the winter, I might say basketball,” McCusker said. “I know I want to play soccer in college. Probably just soccer.
“I want to major in nursing. It’s something I’m interested in. My mom is a nurse and my sister’s a nurse, so it’s something I think I’d like.”
He plans on following in mom’s footsteps. Maybe dad’s, too.
“I think when I’m older I’d like to coach,” McCusker said. “My dad is a great coach. Coached me in basketball and soccer, he taught me everything. Club soccer, he was the girls coach at Ryan. He’s very good.
“My family has done everything for me. They’re a huge part of this.”
Now he just has to bring them home a title. For himself, his family and his school.
“Judge means everything,” McCusker said. “I’m a better soccer player because I came here, but also a better person. It means everything going to Judge. It would mean everything to win here.”