UPDATE: "The Jesters game at Pensacola, Fla. on Wednesday night has been postponed due to heavy rainshowers expected in the area," Kenny Farrell.
Andrew Tarbell played in his first game for the New Orleans Jesters as a 16-year-old goalkeeper, subbing in for an injured teammate, too excited to be on the field to realize the gravity of his challenge.
“I didn’t even think I’d get in a game. I thought it was just great that they’d have me around to practice with the older guys,” Tarbell, 20, recalled this week.
So excited that he played those 10 minutes without shin guards. One of his teammates had borrowed them. So he rolled his socks up high, hiding the truth. He gave up two quick goals.
Five years later, Tarbell is back with the Jesters after his redshirt freshman season at Clemson, ready to continue his soccer lessons in the National Premier Soccer League. Oh, and now... he’s no longer a third-strong goalkeeper, but a starter.
Tarbell is one of 12 New Orleans area players on the Jesters roster.
At Clemson, Tarbell, a Mandeville native who prepped at Fontainebleau, posted four solo shutouts. He also posted 36 saves and ranked fifth in the ACC with a 1.01 goals allowed average.
Coach Kenny Farrell likens Tarbell’s potential to former Jesters star
Patrick Mullins, a former Jesuit standout who earlier this month scored his first MLS goal with the New England Revolution.
Farrell said the Jesters hope to one day field a roster comprised of 90 percent locals. En route to that goal, the Jesters operate a soccer academy for youth age six to 14, an avenue to create an in-house feeder system.
“Can we win the league with just local players? No, not right now,” Farrell said. “We have to bring in players from outside to strengthen the squad.
“But it’s good for the local players too because they mix with guys that have played in some good professional leagues around the world, and that experience of playing and training with them every day is helping them grow.”
So far, it’s worked.
The Jesters dominated their exhibition match Saturday, earning a 9-1 victory against the Houston Hurricanes at Pan American Stadium. Tony Judice (Covington High graduate and local youth coach), Sam Hurrell, Johannes Forstpointer and Phil Dean and scored two goals apiece, Jordan Rice (Jesuit) added one goal.
Up next is Wednesday’s match at Pensacola City FC, followed by Saturday’s game against the Atlanta Silverbacks Reserves at Pan American Stadium (7 p.m.).
Locals on the Jesters this season will range from veteran Judice, a midfielder who has played under Farrell since age 14, to high schoolers Larry Newby (Northshore High) and Rolando Sanchez (Covington High).
And of course, college players like Tarbell. They are able to retain their amateur status by playing for free.
“Coming from college, it’s usually just a once-a-day thing, and it’s at night, and here, it’s an every day thing and a very serious commitment,” said Rice, a midfielder who recently completed his freshman soccer season at Howard.
“I’m glad that I’m here. It’s going to help me with my game to improve.”