Team Players: Trio of seniors help teammates any way they can

By BOBBY "BUTCH" BURNEY | News-Telegram Sports Editor

March 13, 2008 - Every good team must have players who help sharpen their teammates' skills in practice and keep themselves ready to go when called upon in a game.

SSHS soccer coach Andy Holt has three of them in seniors J.D. Cruz, Jerry Rodriguez and Juan Cisneros.

The trio don't start for the Wildcats, but they contribute in practices and when they get the opportunity for some actual game time, they're ready.

"Two of the three have been in the program all four years," Holt said of Cisneros and Cruz. "They're dedicated and work hard to develop their game.

"They're great kids, have great attitudes and make great teammates. They're here every day, working hard."

The three will be recognized along with the other seniors on Friday before their final regular season match against Liberty-Eylau. The game is expected to kickoff at 7:15 p.m. at Gerald Prim Stadium.

Cruz, Cisneros and Rodriguez will all get to see some playing time Friday as the Wildcats gear up for their first-round playoff match next week.

In the Wildcats' first game against L-E, Cruz scored his first varsity goal. He also was the back-up kicker for the football team and knocked through a pair of extra points.

Cruz did not get to play soccer last year after suffering a concussion in football.

"I love the game so much I wanted to come back," Cruz said. "I wasn't going to let something like a concussion to keep me out of the game.

"In soccer, I just love running so much and keeping in shape. Football, you get more excitement, but I love soccer much more than football."

The son of Lino and Ceciala Cruz, J.D. said the thing he likes to do most on the pitch is to get his teammates involved.

"I help my teammates pass the ball around," he said. "I'm not selfish - I just try to move the ball around. The team is like my family. I give them respect and cheer for them like they're my own brothers."

Coach Holt said that attitude, which is echoed by Cisneros and Rodriguez, is why the players are valuable teammates even if they don't get a lot of minutes in games.

"With this team, everybody's pretty close. It's a close-knit group with a lot of friendships," Holt explained. "I think when you have those friendships, it's easier to keep guys happy and contributing to the team.

"Maybe their parents and the way they've grown up has taught these kids to do whatever you can to help contribute because that's part of being a team and part of being a family."

Cisneros has been in the soccer program all four years, and Holt said he doesn't remember him ever missing a practice.

"I just love the game," Cisneros said. "I love being around my friends and teammates. Every time after the game, we hang around. We all get along."

The son of Juan and Norma Cisneros and the oldest of three siblings, Juan has career plans in banking or finance.

Rodriguez has been in the program for two years since moving to Sulphur Springs from Laredo. He said he joined the soccer team to make friends. Mission accomplished.

"I try my best, and when coach puts me in, I try to make some plays and get some scores," he said.

Holt expects the three to perform when they're in games because they all have talent.

"They help us at practice because they're quality players, and if they're on most other teams in this district, there's a good chance they're starting on those other teams," he said. "It's a great chance for them to give us a look at practice, and when they get in the game, they give us everything they've got."

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