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Brighton senior Nia Rivera excels on and off the field

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff December 13, 2012 05:28 PM

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For most, attending a new high school in their senior year would not be easy. Yet the BSA’s December Scholar-Athlete of the Month, Brighton senior Nia Rivera, is excelling.

Not only does Rivera have a 3.47 GPA due in part to her hard work in the tutoring center the Zone, but she is also a cheerleader, a member of the Bengals Dance team, and on the senior committee.

She first started attending the Zone to keep her grades up during cheerleading season, until she realized its lasting effects.

“The Zone has everything: books, laptops, and helpful tutors,” she said. “Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate at home, so I get everything done there.

“It gives me a sense of relief.”

Rivera usually works on AP Calculus and her college applications at the Zone, which she used to attend twice a week. Now she visits four times a week.

Rivera credits the Zone for helping her fit in at Brighton High. She started school without knowing anyone, but it helped her make friends with student-athletes and even her Zone facilitator, Caroline Correa.

“I have a great relationship with Ms. C,” Rivera said. “She has this great energy and positivity. She values education and encourages all of us to do well.

“We have a great relationship, but everyone does with her.”

Correa thinks of Rivera just as positively, and stressed her leadership skills and drive for success.

“No matter what is going on or how many projects she is involved with she never disappoints me academically,” she said. “I truly am lucky to have such a great student in my life.”

What makes Rivera so exceptional is that she can fit in socially and academically just about anywhere. While she was born in Boston, she moved to Puerto Rico in third grade and worked hard in school and started cheerleading. She has also attended Boston Arts Academy and English High.

“I fell in love with cheerleading when I was 11,” she said. “When I moved back to Boston I joined Pop Warner, cheered for English and now for Brighton.

“I have a large background with dance, and cheerleading keeps me positive.”

Rivera said she was sad when the season ended, but now she has the new Brighton Bengal dance team to look forward to.

“There’s nine of us and we’re going to dance at the boys' basketball games,” she said. “We’re going to bring great energy so everybody comes out and has a good time.”

She added that she’s especially excited now that she recruited Ms. Correa to be her coach.

“At first I only had a relationship with Nia in the Zone, but now as her coach for the school's dance team I get to see Nia as an athlete,” Correa said. “She is so committed to the dance team and I can always count on her no matter what.”

Cheerleading and dance isn’t enough for Rivera though, as she is also planning prom, pep rallies, dances, and school trips with the senior committee.

“I just really want to make sure this is my best year in high school,” she said. “I know it will be more difficult to do things in college so I want to do as much as I can before I graduate.”

Rivera hopes to continue cheerleading at Northeastern, where she would like to study nursing. Eventually she hopes to work at Boston Medical Center.

“I really got inspired this year,” she said. “I want that to continue in college.”

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public School athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

East Boston progresses to quarter finals in the boys MIAA state soccer tournament

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff November 3, 2012 05:17 PM

The first round of the North Division 1 MIAA state soccer tournament on Saturday started with two city teams, East Boston and Brighton. Both were missing four star seniors due to the SATS, making it difficult to predict which team would move on to the quarterfinals.

Despite being shut out 5-0 by Brighton earlier in the season, East Boston came out on top today, 4-0.

“We were missing a lot of seniors and didn’t expect the win,” Jets senior forward Juan Restrepo said. “It was definitely a tough game, but we kept our heads high and came out with a victory.”

Meanwhile Bengals coach Adrian Kawuba did not foresee the loss, but said that it had to do with the absence of some senior players.

“Not having seniors affected us a lot today,” Brighton coach Adrian Kawuba said. “Especially in the back.”

Defense is definitely what the Bengals lacked today, as East Boston scored all four goals in a 20-minute span.

The four goals came as a surprise after the first half went scoreless. The first 10 minutes of the second half started the same way, until Jets sophomore midfielder Bernard Xhullima tucked the ball into the lower left corner.

Xhullima also had an assist to senior forward Marvin Melgar ten minutes later.

With Brighton realizing East Boston was not planning on letting up, the game started to get tense and increasingly physical. Even with the usually indestructible Bengals senior forward Rossel Cacho, the team did not manage to score.

“We lost 5-0 to them last time and I felt like we got mugged,” East Boston coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto said. “This time we opened the field used our speed and maneuvered the ball to secure a win.”

The Bengals didn’t expect the loss and became emotional as the final whistle blew.

“Wins and losses are going to happen, not just in the game but in life,” Kawuba said to console his team. “You’ll lose a lot and win a lot but never regret losses, no one can take away your heart.”

Cacho was disappointed with the final score, but believes he received something better than wins this season.

“We didn’t make it to the finals, but we made a family,” he said. “That’s what’s important.”

East Boston will continue to the quarterfinals to battle Masconomet at 2pm on Tuesday.

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public School athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

Brighton has a leader in the dynamic Cacho

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff October 23, 2012 02:09 PM

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Brighton senior captain Rossel Cacho is not only leading the Bengals on the field this season with 25 goals and 22 assists, he is also leading his team off the field by ensuring his teammates attend mandatory study hall.(Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe)

The Brighton boys' soccer team had a setback earlier this season when it was determined that some of the younger players weren’t attending the Boston Scholar Athletes’ Zone, a tutoring center in each of the city’s public high schools. Coach Adrian Kawuba addressed the issue at practice, explaining that each player must attend in order to continue playing on the team.

Fortunately, he had backup -- in the form of 18-year-old senior captain Rossel Cacho.

“He gathered the guys as I was leaving and drove my point across, that we have something special this season,” Kawuba said. “That in order to keep it going, we have to focus on academics, too.

"It wasn’t something I told him to do; it’s just a perfect example of who he is.”

Maturity and excellent academic performance represent only one side of Cacho. On the field, he is the top scorer in all of Eastern Massachusetts, with 25 goals and 22 assists.

“For me, soccer is everything,” the team captain said. “I’ve always had a love for soccer and a desire to become a professional player. I enjoy everything about the game.”

His passion dates back to when he was just 6 years old, growing up in Honduras. That’s where he fell in love with the game and would practice every day. He moved to the US three years ago and said that while soccer here is different compared with his native country, his passion never wavered.

“It was difficult, I had to adjust to the system at first,” he explained. “But I learned proper technique and now I play at my best.”

As the leading scorer in EMass, he has proven that to be true. When comparing his stats to those of suburban players, though, some raise questions about the quality of Cacho’s competition.

“Quite frankly, I think he’d score as many as he does here in the suburbs,” Kawuba said. “He’s extremely talented.

"Sure, we’ve played a couple teams where the goals came a little easier, but that shouldn’t belittle the league. There are very strong teams like Madison, Dorchester, and East Boston. Most of his goals haven’t been easy and he had to earn every single one.”

Cacho said that he scored each goal as a result of daily practice, along with the help of his teammates.

“I was so happy when Coach told me I had the most goals [in EMass],” he said. “But I owe it to my teammates. Without them, scoring wouldn’t be possible.”

There’s no doubt the Bengals have chemistry on and off the field. They encourage one another and emphasize communication, which could be the reason behind their solid 9-3 record. Cacho credits Kawuba for the team’s newfound success.

“He takes his time with us, but he also pushes us,” Cacho said. “Our practices are intense with a lot of physical work. When he sees a mistake, we practice again and again so we can get better and reach the next level.”

Likewise, Kawuba thinks his top scorer has played a part in turning the team around.

“Cacho helped me as a new coach, keeping me up to date on what the team was like last year and connecting to a lot of these players,” he said. “It’s like he’s almost my assistant coach in the way that he gathers the guys and motivates them. Sometimes it takes a player more than a coach to drive a point across and he’s been that for me this year.”

With that guidance, Brighton has already qualified for the state tournament. It will be determined whether the Bengals will be one of the four teams selected to play in the city championships at the end of this week.

Cacho believes the Bengals will not only make it to the city championships but go home with the title.

“They’re my second family,” he said. “All season we’ve helped each other and made each other better. They’re my brothers. We are going to win.”

If Cacho can be sure about anything, it’s that his future is bright. According to Kawuba, he has been scouted all season. He is currently in talks to continue his soccer career at Fisher College.

“Anyone would be lucky to have a player of his caliber on their team,” Kawuba said. “He’s too good not to play.”

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

Week 5: BPS soccer players of the week

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff October 7, 2012 11:43 AM

A new month brought even greater performances by the city soccer stars.

Boys stars:

Troy Fredericks, Latin Academy: The freshman forward put the seniors to shame against CASH on Friday. He made sure he was open at all times and helped out on defense when necessary. He also had great control of the ball which helped set up the two goals scored.

“He’s coming up and showing the older ones how to play,” coach Dennis Allen said. “I was very happy with his performance yesterday and I think he has earned a starting spot.”

Elmer Ventura, East Boston: Somerville brought an end to East Boston's winning streak, but that doesn't mean the Jets didn't play their best. Not only did Ventura lead the team to 9 wins thus far, he scored two goals and three assists against Latin Academy on Thursday.

Lizandro Noguiera, Brighton: This junior forward had an outstanding week. He had an assist in the Bengal’s 9-1 win over Dorchester as well as 3 goals in their 8-0 shut out against Charlestown on Friday.

Ildo Pires, Boston English: Coach Edmar Varela called the junior his best defender and counts on his performance every week. The Cape Verde native is well-conditioned, disciplined, and sets a great example for his team.

“He chased every play as if it was his last,” Varela said of his performance last week.

Heroldans Limage, Dorchester: This freshman took over the role as keeper this season and has been impressive. The Bears lost 3-1 in a thrilling game against Brighton, but Limage had 12 saves.

Girls stars

Lovelyse Bienamie, Dorchester: Dorchester received a blessing last week in the form of a sophomore forward from Boston International. The newbie debuted with a bang and scored both goals in their 2-1 win against Charlestown on Tuesday. The first goal was during the first half, after a cross from senior midfielder Merlande Philogene. The second came at the end of the thrilling second half. The game was tied until Bienamie scored in the last 15 minutes of the game.

Helina Gurmessa, Brighton: This freshman surprised everyone this week, even coach Bridget Driscoll. The forward scored three of the four goals in the Bengals 4-1 win over Boston English. Not only is she new to the game, this was the second match she's played this season.

Monique McPherson, West Roxbury: Although West Roxbury has yet to win its first game this season, coach Edmar Cayemite applauds senior forward Monique McPherson for keeping the team motivated. She also scored the only goal in Thursday's 6-1 loss to New Mission.

Sara Centeio, Charlestown: Despite missing the first two games of the season with paperwork issues, this forward has recorded six goals and two assists in the five games since she's returned. The Townies suffered a tough 5-4 loss to Snowden on Thursday, but Centeio had a hat trick.

"She works very hard both on and off the field," coach Conor Treacy said via email. "Her GPA of 4.34 demonstrates her standing as a model student-athlete."

Brittany Brancato, East Boston: The Jets' city record is 7-1, mostly due to this exceptional keeper. She's had six shutouts this fall, two of them against Burke and CASH 7-0 last week.

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

Cacho leads Brighton boys' soccer to 3-1 win over Dorchester

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff October 3, 2012 06:44 PM

Brighton captain, forward and league standout Rossel Cacho scored two goals to lead the Bengals over Dorchester, 3-1, in boys' soccer Wednesday. Both teams played hard and Cacho's goals didn't come easily.

Both teams’ defense was impeccable at first, but things changed 20 minutes into the game. Cacho carried the ball up the field from the half, passed the entire defensive line and scored in the lower right of the goal.

About 10 minutes later, Cacho shot again but hit the post. Luckily for Brighton, senior forward Christian Castillo was there to score on the rebound.

“He’s phenomenal,” coach Adrian Kawuba said of Cacho. “He’s one of the best in the league. He’s vocal and helps out a lot with the younger ones, which is good to see.”

Meanwhile Dorchester had many breakaways, although the Bears were often off-sides.

By the end of the first half, Brighton was up, 2-0. When the whistle blew at the start of the second, however, it was clear that there was no way Dorchester was going to give up.

The end of the second half is when the action began. Both teams played stunning defense going into the second half.

A Brighton error allowed the Bears to cut the lead in half. After Dorchester’s indirect kick, Brighton was called for a handball in the penalty box.

With 12 minutes left, junior forward Warren Excius succeeded on the kick and scored in the lower left corner.

Castillo and Cacho came through again for Brighton in the last five minutes. Castillo carried the ball down the field and sent it over to Cacho for the finish.

“We worked hard to win,” Cacho said, “but we could have went for more goals. It was frustrating [at the end] but like coach says, good teams find a way to win no matter what.”

Other than Cacho and Castillo, junior keeper Jose Mata was also a clear star of the game with eight saves.

Dorchester freshman keeper Heroldans Limage also stood out with 12 saves.

“We’re definitely getting better,” Kawuba said. “We’re jelling more as a team and looking better. I’m happy to get a win as the away team, and in this weather.”

Dorchester coach Tim Lavin agreed that they could have played better and Brighton deserved the win.

“It was overall not our best performance today,” he said. “We came off a big win against Burke last week so this was a letdown. Brighton played very well, they showed up ready and it took us a long time to get going.”

Excius also said that his team could havebeen better, but that no one should count Dorchester out of the playoffs just yet.

“I was mad, it got tight in the end,” he said. “”But we’re not going to give up. We want the championship so we’re going to keep playing hard to get it.”

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

Gurmessa (3 goals) leads way as Brighton beats Boston English, 4-0, in girls' soccer

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff October 2, 2012 06:51 PM

When Brighton battled Boston English in girls' soccer at Portsmouth Field in Brighton Tuesday afternoon, it was anyone's game early on. Both teams started out with high intensity, though they had trouble controlling the ball because of the rain.

Then Brighton’s Helina Gurmessa stepped in.

The Bengals shut out English, 4-0, and the forward scored three of the four goals. Not only is she a freshman, but this was only her second match.

“I knew she had skills,” said Brighton coach Bridget Driscoll. “But to see her execute was great.”

“It feels good,” Gurmessa said. “Especially since it was my second game, because I didn’t get my physical in on time.”

Her first goal came 20 minutes into the game. Senior forward and captain Emma Lama took control of the ball in the middle of the field, carried it past three defenders, and made a swift pass to freshman midfielder Juliana Santos.

Santos crossed the ball to the middle, and Gurmessa knocked it in.

Gurmessa scored again in the last five minutes of the first half, after a swift pass in front of the goal from Lama.

Gurmessa was at it again in the second half, scoring into the upper right corner of the goal after an impressive cross to the left by Brighton senior midfielder Amarilia Veiga.

Lama, who was also a strong offensive presence, scored the final goal in the first 15 minutes of the second half after a gorgeous shot from the middle of the field.

Brighton sophomore keeper Stephanie Fernandes provided the shutout.

Boston English senior keeper Aida Cornier also was excellent, with 16 saves, but she is looking to improve.

“I feel like I could have done better,” she said. “We’ll be more prepared [next time.]”

Coach Carlos Cornish thinks the only way English can improve is with practice, which has been a problem.

“We’re not getting practice time in that we should," said Cornish. "Some have jobs, some need to go home to watch the little ones. It’s hard.”

The Bengals have had no trouble with practice, though, and it showed on the field. Driscoll believes they have one thing to work on, though.

“We need to constantly work on positioning,” she said. “But everyone played pretty well.”

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

Week 4: Standout plays in BPS soccer

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff September 30, 2012 06:17 PM

It was another strong week in BPS soccer, with impressive plays for the both boys and girls teams.


Boys' action:


Latin Academy

Latin Academy played South Boston on a soggy Saturday and freshman forward Vilder Joachim played a big role in its 5-1 win. In the second half, Joachim picked up the ball on the right corner and powerfully struck it into the left corner, low to the ground.

“I’ve been begging them to keep the ball low,” coach Dennis Allen said. “This was one of those [plays] where the execution was what I had been asking them to do.”

O'Bryant

O’Bryant had a great week. They dominated Revere, 3-0, Saturday, beat Snowden, 3-0, Thursday and tied Latin Academy Tuesday. Sophomore David Lopera had two goals this week, but one, coach Ian Doreian says, was exceptional.

“He shot from 18 yards down,” he said, “and just absolutely buried it.”

Brighton

Brighton played only one match this week, Tuesday against Burke, but coach Adrian Kawuba called it the most exciting of the season.

By the end of the first half, Brighton was down, 3-1. Their confidence didn’t waiver in the second half however, as Rossel Cacho scored from a powerful cross from senior forward Gustavo Silva. Cacho added a second goal later.

“It was the best goal I’ve seen in awhile,” Kawuba said. “He headed the ball in. I don’t know how he managed to get the ball into the corner. It was unbelievable.”

Sophomore Vinicus Cordeiro also had a fantastic goal from 35 yards out off a free kick that ended up being the game-winner for Brighton, 4-3.

East Boston

Last Friday East Boston went to the suburbs in a match against Malden. They won 1-0 in a game that coach Lorenzo Di Benedetto called “clean and well matched,” But one play stuck out.

Freshman forward Sebastian Toro scored the only goal after picking up the ball 30 yards out. He passed all of the defenders and rushed the goalie, who saved the ball at his first attempt. He went in for the rebound and tucked in a beautiful goal.

Girls action:

Madison Park

Madison Park shut out Burke, 6-0, Friday thanks to many fantastic plays. Senior forward Heidymara Gomes executed a beautiful goal from the middle of the field after an assist from senior forward Dulcelina Tavares.

“They’ve played together for a while, since they were freshmen,” coach Adelina Da Silva said, “So they know each other well and make beautiful plays.”

Even a defender had a goal against Burke. Senior Ashley Chavez recovered the ball from Gomes and scored all the way from Madison’s side of the field.

Dorchester

Even though Dorchester lost to O’Bryant, 7-2, coach Allison Cohn is proud of the way her team played. The first goal was by senior forward Mirlande Philogene, after recovering the ball with her head. She then dribbled up past the defenders and scored in an impressive shot to the right corner.

East Boston

This week East Boston’s power was in its underclassmen. Forward Mariah Roberts showed great skill in Tuesday’s 5-0 shut out against Charlestown – and she’s only a freshman. She had an impressive goal in the second half after she passed two defenders, as well as a gorgeous assist to sophomore midfielder Ruth Rivas.

Charlestown

Although Charlestown lost East Boston, sophomore forward Sara Centeio was the most dedicated player on the field. Despite being down by 5 with no subs at the end of the second half, she powered down the field and passed every defender. She couldn’t execute however, as East Boston’s sophomore keeper Brittany Blancato blocked her shot.

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

Heather O'Reilly makes appearance at Boston SCORES gala

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff September 28, 2012 10:50 AM

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Photo courtesy of America Scores Boston

Heather O'Reilly, who won a gold medal with the US Women's Soccer team at the 2012 London Olympics, showed off her hardware at the 2012 SCORES Celebration in the South End. She is flanked on her left by John Maconga, executive director America SCORES Boston, and Dwayne Simmons, program director for America SCORES Boston.

The South End was abuzz with soccer enthusiasts of all ages to celebrate at the 2012 SCORES Celebration Thursday night with special guest, U.S. women’s national soccer team star Heather O’Reilly. Students, athletes and Boston public school supporters gathered at the high-energy gala at Cyclorama for a night of soccer activities, poetry performances and food from local restaurants.

The faces of Boston public school athletes lit up as they received pointers from O'Reilly in the kid's clinic that kicked off the event. The olympic gold champion enthusiastically assisted each player in shooting and passing drills and coached them in a scrimmage.

“I've been involved for close to seven years," O'Reilly said. "I fell in love with the program and its uniqueness. I was an education major in college so it sort of blended together everything I find important. When I heard America SCORES was [in Boston] I jumped at the opportunity to help.”

O'Reilly also spoke about competing in the London olympics, signed autographs and posed for photos.

O’Reilly, New England Revolution team President Brian Bilello and New England Revolution broadcaster Brad Feldman spoke about their love of America SCORES and the impact it’s making on students.

“It’s a great organization,” Bilello said. “The fact that they’re combining soccer and education is great. It’s made a lot of sense for a long time for the Revs to be involved.”

After the soccer events, Lael Watson, a fifth-grader at Orchard Gardens K-8 School in Roxbury, made a poetry performance.

“My poem ‘I Am’ is about where I’m from and who I am,” Watson said. “I’m nervous, but I have a lot of confidence. I’m really happy I was chosen.”

Coach Mark Salzillo was thrilled and grateful that SCORES invited the Orchard Garden School.

“It’s an amazing opportunity to meet professional soccer players and create the idea of soccer at a bigger level for them, because they’re all beginners,” Salzillo said.

The celebration was provided by America SCORES Boston, a non-profit organization dedicated to help urban youth attain life skills, literacy, and health through soccer.

“America SCORES is a very special organization because it gives kids the platform to believe in themselves,” O’Reilly said. “Keep it up America SCORES because you’re doing fantastic things.”

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

Week 3: Three games to watch in BPS soccer

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff September 23, 2012 06:33 PM


For the boys:


East Boston at Malden at 3:45 p.m, Friday.

East Boston just gets stronger by the week. The undefeated Jets have dominated every match this season, most recently shutting out South Boston, 8-0. Freshman keeper Edwin Avelar has only surrendered one goal thus far, to Boston International.

East Boston’s rein may be over on Friday, however, as they are playing outside of the city. Malden also has a strong team with only one loss against Somerville.

West Roxbury vs. Boston English at Ceylon at 3:30 p.m, Monday.

Neither West Roxbury nor Boston English are off to a strong start this season, as both are still in search of their first victory. West Roxbury struggled against CASH in the one game they’ve played so far, losing 10-1.

English has played three matches and at least had three goals against mighty Brighton last week. It looks like English has this one set, but West Roxbury will definitely put up a fight.

Snowden vs. O’Bryant at Madison Park at 3:30 p.m., Thursday.

Snowden has had a weak presence in the league so far, but you wouldn’t know it by the way they played last Friday. The team dominated the usually strong Charlestown, winning the match, 4-0. This was the team’s first win of the season, and it’s likely they’ll keep that momentum going this week.

O’Bryant has also had a successful week, even after playing outside the city. They shut out CASH, 6-0, as well as Revere, 3-0, on Saturday.

Coming out of two equally nice wins, the match on Thursday is sure to be a thriller.


For the girls:


New Mission vs. Brighton at Portsmouth field at 3:30 p.m., Monday.

This will be the best girls game of the week by far. New Mission is this season’s team to watch and Brighton is trying to recover that title.

New Mission is still undefeated while Brighton lost their first game against Latin Academy 6-0. Brighton won both games against South Boston and Snowden and there is no way they’re going down again without a fight.

O’Bryant vs. Dorchester at Franklin Field #2 at 3:30 p.m., Monday.

Both O’Bryant and Dorchester have lost just once thus far, and both teams will do what they can to ensure they come out victorious.

O’Bryant had a stellar week, shutting out CASH, 10-0, and Burke, 4-0. It’s likely that they’ll be using this game against Dorchester to get them ready for Mt. Alverania on Tuesday.

Although the game is slightly in O’Bryant’s favor, Dorchester shouldn’t be counted out. They’re coming from Friday’s thrilling 3-2 win over Boston English and will be sure to provide a high-energy match.

East Boston at Charlestown at 3:30 p.m., Tuesday.
Charlestown is not happy with its tie against South Boston last Wednesday. The team has yet to win a match, but if their first win is against East Boston they are definitely a team to watch.

East Boston lost 7-0 to North Quincy Tuesday but came back victorious against West Roxbury on Friday, winning 7-2. If they come into the game against Charlestown with the spirits of Friday, it’s likely they’ll be the winners.

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

New coach brings big change for Brighton

Posted by Zuri Berry, Boston.com Staff September 19, 2012 11:08 AM

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Billy Owens / For the Boston Globe

New Brighton boys' soccer coach Adrian Kawuba (center) takes his players through drills on Wednesday afternoon. The former professional soccer player and entrepreneur hopes to use soccer as a tool to get his players into college, whether they play at the next level or not.

Adrian Kawuba is determined to make a difference – and he’s starting with the Brighton boys soccer team. The former professional soccer player, entrepreneur and new coach will stop at nothing to make sure his players get to college, whether they’re playing soccer or not.

“I’m trying to help these guys look beyond a city championship, but college,” he said. “I want to increase the number [of players] that go to college. Not just soccer, the entire athletic department. I want to change their outlook. No more just, ‘after high school I may go to college.’ I want them to say ‘where am I going to go?’”

The 23-year-old’s passion for soccer and academics is evident from his background. The Uganda native would play from morning until night, and that didn’t stop when he moved to the US at the age of 12. He continued to play at his high school, Lexington Christian Academy and earned a scholarship to play for Drew University. He received many awards during his time at Drew and assisted the team in winning two championships. From there, he signed with the New Jersey Rangers, the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, Uganda’s Under-23 national league, and finally, with Boston, to play for Mass United.

“For me it’s always been more than soccer,” he said. “It’s been my outlet to keep out of trouble. It was my safe haven. I loved being on the soccer field. With some of the boys it’s somewhat of a similar situation where they’re really trying to use soccer as a platform, whether it’s aspirations for college or whatever else they have in my mind.”

While Kawuba graduated with a degree in finance and even secured a job in the field, he quickly determined that he couldn’t stray from the sport and the players. Utilizing his coaching and athletic experience, he started his own company, AK Sportgroups. The company organizes camps and clinics for boys and girls of all ages in various sports. Many players in the Boston public schools league trained with AK Sportsgroups this past summer.

He also created Mix Up Video Productions, a sports video company that produces recruitment videos for kids that want to play in college. This venture was designed especially for city players, who don’t get as much coverage as public school athletes.

“I want to provide structured programs for these guys and make chances for them to play in college,” he said. “That shouldn’t just be limited to kids in prep schools.”

Making sure that city students get the chance to show off their talent to colleges is what lead Kawuba to coach for Brighton.

“I saw that I would give more value to Brighton than prep schools that already have these programs,” he said. “I’m already talking to [the players] about college. A lot of them ask about college. I hope to help them make it happen.”

Kawuba also sees a bit of himself in the boys, making his transition to the Boston public school system even smoother.

“I feel that some of these boys connect with me,” he said. “I didn’t come from a wealthy family at all but I had a passion for sports. I want to play any part in helping them achieve their goals. Having gone through high school and college playing the same sport, I think I can make a difference.”

The difference is already evident. The team plays cohesively. The players support each other after each play, even if it’s unsuccessful. Their rapport with each other and Kawuba is positive and upbeat.

They chant “family” before taking the field.

“It’s my first year playing,” junior Lizandro Noqueira said. “He motivated me and helped me out since the first day. He’s a great coach and a great person.”

Kawuba’s coaching approach even benefits the players off the field.

“Generally the guys are very skillful players,” he said, “but they need to be fit. Core work and stretching, even nutrition. Little things like that, educating these guys on being a better athlete has benefits. They’ll say ‘coach I had a burger today, is that OK with training?’”

It’s obvious by looking at the team that the players look up to Kawuba and want his approval just as much as he wants theirs.

“I love my coach,” sophomore Wilson Sousa said. “He’s the best [coach] I’ve ever had. He’s disciplined and experienced. He’s always trying to get me to improve and do my best.”

While Kawuba would be thrilled if Brighton made it to the playoffs, it isn’t his biggest concern.

“I want to make a difference with something they can relate to,” he said. “My goal is to inspire the boys and show them that you can do what you love doing.”

Mary Pavlu covers Boston Public school athletics. She can be reached at Mary.Pavlu@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @MaryPavlu

About Boston Public Schools Sports Blog

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Several reporters, editors and correspondents contribute updates, news and features to the BPS Sports Blog:
  • Justin A. Rice -- A metro Detroit native, Rice is a Michigan State University (Go Spartans!) and Northeastern University graduate. Rice lives in the South End with his dog and wife, who unfortunately attended the University of Michigan ... his wife, that is. He curates the BPS Sports Blog and is always looking to write about city athletes with great stories. Have an idea? He can be reached at jrice.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @GlobeJustinRice or @BPSspts.
  • Ryan Butler -- A Rhode Island native and avid Boston sports fan, Butler played basketball, baseball and football throughout his time in Barrington Public Schools. Now currently in his middler year at Northeastern University, he joins Boston.com as a correspondent for the site's BPS coverage. Have a story idea? Contact him at butler.globe@gmail.com. Follow him on his Twitter @butler_globe.
Also expect updates from Boston.com High School sports editor Zuri Berry and the Globe staff.
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