Sharif Sharif realizes that he and his Bonnabel soccer teammates don’t have some of the same luxuries as some of the other soccer teams in the city have.
There were no reversible practice jerseys to distinguish sides during practice Monday.
It was shirts vs. skins.
The patches of dirt scattered in the grassy practice field beside the school were another reminder.
Not that Sharif and his teammates are complaining.
“To be honest with you, we don’t really have a whole lot of support money-wise, and you can see our practice field isn’t in the best of shape,” Sharif said. “But everybody out here wants this. I just see it as other schools being more blessed than we are, but hard work pays off.”
The Bruins, a No. 10 seed in the LHSAA Division I playoffs, are enjoying one of their best seasons in recent memory.
Bonnabel defeated Zachary 3-1 in the first round and will travel to play No. 7 seed Denham Springs on Wednesday in the second round. The Bruins, who start nine seniors, are 15-2-1 this season.
“With nine seniors, this is the year if we are going to do something,” coach Colt Colletti said. “It’s not tough. These seniors have been playing the game for years. I am not having to teach them soccer. They know the game. I’m just getting it organized, getting them to the game and making sure they stay in shape. It almost runs itself.”
The soccer is the easy part for the second-year coach.
The toughest part is perhaps learning to pronounce and spell all of his players’ names.
They come from all over.
Honduras. Mexico. Guatemala. Palestine.
“You name the country, they’re from there,” Colletti said.
Well, except the United States.
There are no American players on his roster of about 30 or so players.
Very few tried out.
He had right at 200 students to try out for the team. Almost all, he said, were Hispanics in the school that has a 40 percent Hispanic population.
The makeup of his team is almost 100 percent Hispanic, except two players from Palestine, including Sharif, the leading scorer.
Their two losses came against Mandeville, a No. 4 seed, and Grace King, a No. 14 seed which they defeated once.
It was that win over Grace King that Sharif says let him know this could be a special season for the Bruins.
Sharif, who has a team-high 25 goals this season, missed that game with an injury.
“When I see the young players step up and do their jobs, I knew we had a chance,” Sharif said. “We have played a lot of close games, but we always manage to come back on time.”
Sharif has played soccer since he was 5 years old.
Most of his teammates have played the game their entire lives as well.
“We all share one love, and it’s sports,” Sharif said. “We don’t have much in common, but we all love soccer.”
Sharif and senior defender Julio Villafuerta serve as co-captains.
The other senior starters are forward Luis Mejia, midfielders Javier Padilla, Juan Martinez and Bryan Gonzales, defenders Hefer Paz, and Biomendes Ulloa and keeper Alan Garcia. The other two starters are junior defender Leonardo Gomez and sophomore defender Luis Alverado.
A victory on Wednesday would put the Bruins in the quarterfinals to face the winner of the Acadiana -Northshore match. A win there would put Bonnabel two wins from a state title.
But Sharif is thinking bigger picture.
“Maybe one day all of this will help us get a better facility,” he said. “ What I’m really proud of is that we are building a name for Bonnabel.”