It was a family affair at Half Moon Bay High School on Saturday morning. The boys soccer alumni game pitted fathers, brothers and cousins against each other in one of the largest turnouts in recent memory.
With alumni ranging in age from players who donned the jersey last season to those who played in the 1970s, it was a chance for former players, friends and teammates to reconnect. The games also bring out small rivalries between classes and generations, as each group tries to bolster its reputation as a superior class.
What the games may lack in competitive drama they make up for with the joy the players and friends getting together again. It’s a festive and inclusive atmosphere.
Jeff and Cindy Turgeon, who run the school’s soccer programs, explained that in the past too many players showed up to get into a single game. A few years ago, they decided to split the field and set up goals on the sidelines so two games can be played at once.
Saturday’s games featured three teams of eight alumni playing alongside the current varsity and junior varsity players. Alan Jones, a member of the class of ’77, has seen the alumni game grow substantially throughout the years. Some days, he can’t believe how popular it’s become. He saw it grow from humble beginnings to a large community gathering.
“It’s mostly just seeing the new kids coming up for the high school team,” Jones said. “But you run into a few of your old teammates, like Danny (Ramirez). I haven’t seen him in 20 years.”
For Johnatan Rico-Contreres, these games serve multiple purposes. A 2015 graduate from Half Moon Bay, he was a standout player on the team that won the Central Coast Section Division III title in 2014. This spring he graduated from the University of the Pacific, in Stockton, where he earned all-league honors on the men’s soccer team. He loves coming back to reconnect, but also to help mentor the current players.
“I enjoy playing soccer, but just seeing my friends, the people I graduated with, and people who have supported this program for a while, it’s always good to come back, give back and meet people,” Rico-Contreres said.
His younger brother Jiovanni is a sophomore on the varsity team, and Rico-Contreres makes it a point to give back to his program.
“I always try to come out to their practices to give them some advice,” he said. “I think I’ve been very fortunate to go through this process and play at a D-I level, so it’s always good to give back.
“You want to make sure these guys have a good future,” he said.