Abou Cherif has great footwork for a big guy.
And those feet do more than help him be one of the best soccer players in the Catholic League.
Cherif is a senior striker on the Father Judge High School soccer team, and ever since arriving at the school, he’s been a model player.
It’s not the only place he’s been a model.
“I do a little modeling on the side, it’s just something that me and my brother and my cousin did, we did it for a while,” said Cherif, who lives in Lower Mayfair. “They did it, I stopped doing it because I play soccer for school, I work and I play club soccer. But a few months ago my brother dragged me back because they needed someone and I liked it again.
“It’s pretty fun, different clothing brands will use you, you’ll get a text or an email every week. They’ll set you up, they’ll tell you what you have to wear, and then you walk the runway. Sometimes they let you keep the clothes, but it’s fun. It’s been a great experience.”
Nearly as great as the experience Cherif is having with the Crusaders.
Judge has found plenty of success since he enrolled.
A four-year starter, in his first year Cherif and the Crusaders played in the spring because of the pandemic.
The past two seasons, Judge has advanced to the Catholic League championship game.
So Cherif has enjoyed a lot of success since he arrived. His first year, the Crusaders played against Public League schools because they sat out the fall due to the pandemic.
“It’s been very good, our freshman year, we went undefeated and won the Public League,” Cherif said. “We didn’t play in the fall, we played in the spring.
“My sophomore year was tough because I never played in the Catholic League before, but I got a lot of help. It’s gone really well.”
This year has gone great for Cherif and his teammates, although he expects even more.
And because of what Cherif has done the past two years against Catholic League foes, his role has evolved.
In previous seasons, Cherif would be the man scoring all the goals, but since he gets so much attention, he’s happy to take a step back and let his teammates get the glory.
“I’m playing a different role and I’m getting better at it,” said Cherif, who has four goals for the Crusaders. “I want to score as many goals as I can, but people see how we play. Now in tough games, when I’m getting double and triple teamed, my teammates are getting it done. This year, I’ll happily be a decoy because we have other guys who can score. Worry about me, go ahead, the other guys will score.
“It’s great, sometimes it gets in my head because as a striker, my main job is to score. When I’m not scoring, I feel like I’m not doing enough for the team. But the coaches do a great job of letting me know, especially in hard times, like overtime or when things aren’t going well, they know I’m busting my butt and they’re keeping me up. And the other guys are stepping up.”
Whatever the Crusaders are doing, it’s working.
Judge is one of just two unbeaten teams remaining in the Catholic League. The Crusaders are atop the PCL with Archbishop Wood.
On Saturday, Judge knocked off defending Catholic League champion Archbishop Ryan in a rematch of last year’s classic. This one was also a goodie, with Judge winning on an overtime goal by Michael Regan.
Anyone who looks at the standings will tell you the Crusaders are right where they want to be. But don’t tell Cherif that. He isn’t anywhere close to satisfied with the way things are going.
As a captain, he has very high expectations.
“We’re looking pretty good, but we still have a lot to get better,” Cherif said. “We started off slow but we’re getting better. We are supposed to be the best team right now, or one of them, but the games have been tough for us.
“It’s about winning, and we’re playing in a great environment. But we came out slow. I think we thought things would be easier, but every team is very good. But we’re winning and that’s the most important part.”
He also loves that it’s his job to make sure that things are going great for everyone.
“It means a lot to me, we have three good years where I learned, and to just have that role, everyone looks up to you, it’s really nice,” Cherif said. “Everyone listens, the young guys ask questions, it makes me feel great. I love being someone everyone looks up to and these guys love learning and playing better.”
Cherif has high hopes for this year and beyond. Next year he hopes to play college soccer, and his goal is to work in computer science, or possibly sports management, potentially to become an athletic director.
He wants to go off to college modeling a Catholic League championship jacket. And he’s ready to earn it.
“We can be really good. I see something special on the team. Even the young guys. Half our team is seniors, so we all have that thing that is telling us we have to win. This is our season. We can be the best. The coaches are doing a really good job, don’t rush, do the important things.
“I love Judge, it’s a second home to me. The teachers are great, the school is great, I wake up looking forward to it, both for soccer and school. It’s boys day out every day, it’s really nice.
“The Judge community and coaches gave me a great opportunity to be a part of something great the past few years. When I graduated middle school, I didn’t know much about the Catholic League. But Judge opened a whole new world for me. I never thought I’d be where I’m at. It’s been great.”