ELYRIA — Elyria Catholic won one for Jakob on Saturday night.
A day after finding out their teammate, junior goalkeeper Jakob Hwang, was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma, the Panthers, many of whom played with Hwang’s initials “JH” and the hashtag #HwangStrong written on the tape on their wrists, defeated Hearts for Jesus Christ 6-1 in a non-league game on an emotional night at Knights of Columbus Field.
Senior Andrew Ferguson, one of three Elyria Catholic seniors who were honored in Senior Night ceremonies before the game, had a chance to visit Hwang in the hospital Saturday afternoon.
“Jakob is very positive and he’s smiling so it was great to see him,” said Ferguson, who had two assists in Saturday’s win. “It’s great to get a win for Jakob. We’re all thinking about him. We know it’s going to be a hard battle but we have to stay positive and play for him. That’s our goal for the rest of the season. And we’re going to be right here with him in everything he’s going to go through over the next six months.”
Elyria Catholic (6-8-1) got on the board first in the 12th minute on an unassisted goal by sophomore Gavin Velazquez, who scored three on the night. He added two more in the second half as the Panthers scored three goals in a 1:57 span to turn a tight game into a one-sided affair.
“When I first heard the news, I was like there is no way that is the Jakob Hwang that I know. It was so unrealistic to me I couldn’t process it in my head,” Velazquez said. “Everybody around me was crying then I realized this is real. Anything can happen so we all have to join him in the fight against cancer.”
“It’s going to be nothing but smiles when we get to tell Jakob we won this game for him,” Velazquez said. “‘He’s going to say, ‘Really, you guys did that for me?’ I’m going to tell him, ‘Yes, it was a great game, it was 6-1. I wish you were there with us.”‘
Senior Reid Burke, Brad Kelling and Alex Steindl scored the other Elyria Catholic goals.
The Guardians’ lone goal came in the 18th minute when senior Jacob Maynard scored off an assist by Andrew Graham.
“I had the team look up into the crowd before the game, take a deep breath and realize that we’re all in it together. We’re all in it to fight for Jakob,” Elyria Catholic coach Eric Kisela said. “We’ve had a rough 24 to 36 hours. This was a way to just get away from it and play soccer for 80 minutes.
“My role isn’t to be coach right now. It’s to be a leader of 21 young men. I’m going to do everything I can to help these young men through this difficult time. I’d be lying if I said this is going to be easy. It’s so much more than just soccer. It’s about a teammate, a friend and a classmate. There is no book that has the right answer on how to deal with this.”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
EC 6, Hearts for Jesus 1
GOALS: (HFJ) Jacob Maynard (18th minute); (EC) Gavin Velazquez (12th minute, 45th minute, 47th minute), Reid Burke (27th minute), Alex Steindl (45th minute), Brad Kelling (54th minute).
ASSISTS: (HFJ) Andrew Graham; (EC) Andrew Ferguson 2
SAVES: (HFJ) Caleb Whiting 8; (EC) Bryce Hileman 1
FOULS: Hearts for Jesus 3; Elyria Catholic 4
CORNER KICKS: Hearts for Jesus 1; Elyria Catholic 6
OFFSIDES: Elyria Catholic 1
HALFTIME: Elyria Catholic 2-1