Sophomore Ceno helps Crusaders cruise onward

Su­per sopho­more: On a team with 14 seni­ors, it was sopho­more Kev­in Ceno who scored the game-win­ner in Judge’s 2-0 semi­final win over Arch­bish­op Ry­an. The win pro­pelled the Cru­saders in­to their third straight Cath­ol­ic League title game, where they de­feated Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic, 3-1, on Tues­day night. BRAD LAR­RIS­ON / FOR THE TIMES

Kev­in Ceno al­ways dreamed of this mo­ment. He just didn’t think it would come so soon.

Ceno, a sopho­more mid­field­er and first-year varsity play­er for the Fath­er Judge soc­cer team, usu­ally plays a re­serve role for the Cru­saders, which comes with the ter­rit­ory on a team with 14 seni­ors that pro­duced an 18-1 re­cord. Ceno told him­self to wait his turn … his time would come.

Little did he know it would come dur­ing Sat­urday’s league semi­final game against Arch­bish­op Ry­an. Due to the strength of Ry­an’s back line, head­lined by First Team All-Cath­ol­ic se­lec­tion 6-foot-5 goal­keep­er Jared Ott, Judge head coach John Dun­lop tabbed Ceno to start to give the Cru­saders an ex­tra at­tack­er up top. 

Suf­fice to say the de­cision paid off.

Roughly 14 minutes in­to the second half of a pre­vi­ously sco­re­less game, Ceno gained pos­ses­sion near the top of the left side of Ry­an’s 18; once there, he spun his de­fend­er around, dribbled right and fired a beau­ti­ful shot in­to the bot­tom right corner of the net past a diving Ott to give Judge a 1-0 lead. With un­der 10 minutes to play, Judge’s leth­al seni­or combo of Joey Hansen and Ry­an Nork did the rest, as the lat­ter headed in a cross from Hansen to send the Cru­saders to the league cham­pi­on­ship game for the third con­sec­ut­ive year.

“I al­ways think about goals like this,” said Ceno, the un­likely in­ter­viewee. “In bed be­fore I go to sleep, in school dur­ing the day, just every­where I go, really. You think it’s im­possible, but when it comes down to it, you see those guys en­cour­aging you to shoot and say­ing how much they love you … it just made me feel great about my­self.”

Team­mates couldn’t stop rav­ing about Ceno’s shot after the game, which had to be per­fectly placed to beat Ott, a goalie so hard to score on be­cause of his side-to-side length and ex­ten­sion.

“Their goalie … man, he’s huge. He’s a mon­ster,” Ceno said. “I knew I had to shoot it low and hard, and it was just a shot I had to take.”

Scor­ing the game’s first goal al­le­vi­ated some pres­sure, and the Cru­saders were able to close it out from there, es­pe­cially after the late goal that ori­gin­ated on Hansen’s foot and fin­ished on Nork’s head. The highly-skilled duo, both of whom earned soc­cer schol­ar­ships to at­tend La Salle Uni­versity next fall, has made it easi­er on in­ex­per­i­enced play­ers like Ceno to flour­ish with­in Dun­lop’s sys­tem.

“Those guys are amaz­ing,” Ceno said of Hansen and Nork. “They play amaz­ing balls and make everything look so easy. They’re just great play­ers in gen­er­al, and it’s a pleas­ure play­ing with those two.”

And not only has Ceno been able to take ad­vant­age of­fens­ively by play­ing closely with Nork and Hansen, but the young­ster has learned a lot about how to carry him­self as a lead­er, which will cer­tainly come in handy when those two — along with Judge’s oth­er 12 seni­ors — gradu­ate this spring.

“All of those guys, they’re all people to look up to,” Ceno said. “They’re great mo­tiv­at­ors, great cap­tains. I just have to listen to what they’re telling me so hope­fully we can win a cham­pi­on­ship my seni­or year. I can’t even de­scribe the feel­ing, be­ing able to come in my first year on varsity and play­ing with these amaz­ing play­ers. As young as I am, it’s just an in­cred­ible feel­ing.

“It gives me a lot to look for­ward to. Ac­com­plish­ing what they’ve ac­com­plished, it’s go­ing to be hard fol­low­ing in their foot­steps and filling their shoes. But that’s the whole point, to get con­nec­ted, get­ting to know each oth­er and be­com­ing friends, be­com­ing a fam­ily. It’s all about chem­istry on this team, and hope­fully one day I can get to where they are.”

Learn­ing from guys like Nork and Hansen, as well as standout seni­ors such as mid­field­ers Aaron Povlow and Geoff De­g­nan, backs Joey Malves­tuto, Sam Caran­cia and Dav­id Rodrig­uez and keep­er Danny Sulp­iz­io, Ceno isn’t as far off as he might think. Judging by the team­mate re­ac­tions to his pristinely dif­fi­cult goal, it’s been easy for sopho­mores and ju­ni­ors to feel right at home. 

“Ceno is big and fast, and he has a great shot, ob­vi­ously,” Dun­lop said. “He got an isol­a­tion at their 18 and did a great job spin­ning his de­fend­er and hit one hard and low. It’s a big goal for Ceno, and I’m real proud of him, be­cause he’s been work­ing really hard.

“It’s a cred­it to these seni­ors for guid­ing the young­er guys through the pro­cess. It makes my job so much easi­er. We have the ad­vant­age of ex­per­i­ence, and that takes away any nerves. We have great kids who we can have fun with and joke around with.”

Ceno was giv­en the nick­name “Nose” by his team­mates for the dis­tinct­ive sniff­ler that sits perched in the middle of his face. 

“He’s one of those happy-go-lucky guys that you can joke with,” Dun­lop said. “Someone came up with the nick­name ‘Nose’ for him, and all week we’ve been telling him, ‘Fol­low your nose, fol­low your nose.’ Today, he had a nose for the goal, and I’m really happy for him.”

It’s likely Ceno would be fine with any nick­name thrown his way, so long as he can punc­tu­ate that with an­oth­er name … Cath­ol­ic League cham­pi­on, which he did after Judge’s 3-1 cham­pi­on­ship win over Lans­dale Cath­ol­ic on Tues­day night.

“These guys, the play­ers and coaches, they make you feel wel­come,” he said. “They bring you in like a fam­ily mem­ber and make you feel good about your­self. I’ve trained real hard to be out there, and I think they’re start­ing to see what I’m cap­able of. I might not be all the way there, but I know what I can do. Today, I just ripped it.”  ••

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