Favorite athlete: Leo Messi
Favorite team: Manchester United
Favorite memory competing in sports: Winning States last year and going 26-0
Most embarrassing/funniest thing that has happened while competing in sports: When (coach) Jeremiah (White) plays with us in practice and dribbles through all of us.
Music on iPod: Alternative, Rap
Future plans: Major in Actuarial Sciences and become an Actuary
Words to live by: “You miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”
One goal before turning 30: Travel out of the country
One thing people don’t know about me: I am addicted to Chipotle.
By GORDON GLANTZ
It is doubtful Stephen Sheehan has heard of Garrett Morris, an original cast member of Saturday Night Live in the 1970s, or the alter ego he was best known for creating – Chico Escuela.
Morris’ fictional Escuela was a former baseball player awkwardly cast in the role of a sportscaster whose constant fallback was “baseball been very, very good … to me.”
However, the CB East senior – and Univest Featured Male Athlete of the Week – can surely relate.
Replace baseball with soccer, and remove the accent, and we’re good to go.
Sheehan started playing soccer shortly after he learned to walk and has made it a year-round labor of love ever since.
“As I kept going with it, I started to love it more,” he said. “It helped me in school because all of the other kids seemed to be into soccer, too.”
Although it was not a sport his parents, Tim and Theresa, grew up with – he says his dad played a pickup game in his neighborhood once a year – soccer is on television in the Sheehan home 24/7 and is pretty much always the topic of discussion at the dinner table. It seems natural that younger brother, Andrew, is a freshman member of the CB East junior varsity squad.
“It has always been soccer,” says Sheehan, who says his dabbling with baseball, the American pastime, wrapped up around second grade.
Even Sheehan’s endeavors outside of soccer and school, where he sports a 4.1 grade-point average with either AP-level or honors classes, are related to soccer.
Part-time job? He referees soccer games. Community involvement? He coaches “little kids” playing soccer for the first time.
And when the high school season ends – pretty late, considering the Patriots’ potentate status – he finds himself in the mix with club soccer, which hits its peak in the spring.
Friends and Foes
When it comes to club soccer, Sheehan has looked for the best situation. He started off at Buckingham United, sandwiched two stints with Ukrainian National around playing for Warrington. Currently, he plays for Yardley Makefield Soccer (YMS).
He explains why he has played for different teams.
“It’s about the best training and being on the best team and being able to play well and be noticed (by colleges),” said Sheehan, who is still hopeful of playing Division I soccer but has only gotten firm offers from smaller schools.
There has also been an odd side benefit of having played with and against some of the area’s most elite players.
Pride is on the line come high school season.
“Once the game hits, it’s all down to business,” said Sheehan, scoffing at the notion of first-year CB East coach Jeremiah White calling him “the nicest kid in the world” but admitting to having running conversations with opponents from other teams.
“I know almost everyone I’m playing against,” he added. “Almost every captain on other teams, I would say I know almost all of them. If anything, it motivates me more. I want to shut them down and rub it in their face after the game. It’s who I am.”
Who Sheehan is, though, is a four-year starter for the Patriots. Former coach Mike Gorni inserted him into the lineup as a freshman and, more or less, told him to run around and create havoc.
“I have to thank Gorni for opening the door,” said Sheehan. “He believed in me as a freshman. Right now, I don’t know where I would be with a different coach at a different time.”
Sheehan, who settled in as a center back as sophomore when the Patriots won the league and district titles and reached the state quarterfinals, added: “I played a lot as a freshman. I was a workhorse. I played every position except goalie. I was a bit surprised, to be honest with you. I know some of the people I was playing instead of were better than me. I don’t know why he played me, but I made the most of it.”
Then came last season. The one he will not soon forget.
The Patriots won it all, going undefeated. Along the way, they beat Conestoga in the district final and state semifinals.
Next up, at Hershey stadium, was dominating 2-0 win over Seneca Valley for the state crown.
“Conestoga only had two losses, and they were both to us. Those games were incredible. Thinking back (to the state championship game), I remember just thinking, ‘I can’t believe this is happening.’ We went up, 1-0, and then, 2-0.”
Even though the Conestoga wins were bigger challenges, the sweetness of Chocolate Town won’t soon be forgotten.
“This was still the state final,” he said. “There was the bus ride home, the trophy and the fans storming the field. Seven buses went up to the game. It was the most incredible fan section I ever saw. Everyone, including our families, stormed the field. It was crazy. When we got back into Doylestown, there were firetrucks waiting for us. It was incredible.”
This year, under a new coach that he has come to truly appreciate, it has been a bit different.
“There were superstars on that team,” said Sheehan of last year’s squad that included All-American Evan Vare. “I’m only one of two returning starters.”
That meant more of a leadership role, it has meant struggling more for victories.
The Patriots won all their scrimmages but tied their opener against Spring-Ford (1-1).
“It was a big shock,” he said. “It was our first game, and we couldn’t find a way to put the ball in the net. That felt like a loss. That’s when reality set in.”
As it turned out, it was a good thing it set in early. The Patriots are now closing in on another league title.
“It’s entirely different. We lost our head coach and most of our other coaches,” Sheehan said. “We have a whole new lineup, but a lot of these players were on that team (last year). It’s about stepping up, and we have had a lot of adapting to do, but we are finding ways to win.
“Last year, with so many superstars, my position was to clean up and stop everything and not let them through. This year, I have to kind of direct the whole team. It’s entirely different.”
That goes for being a leader as well.
“It’s amazing how all the freshmen look up to you,” he said. “That means I have to be on my best behavior, on and off the field. I have to show them how hard you have to work. Last year, I really didn’t have a say. This year, it was right away. But a lot of the guys are my age. It has made it easier to take on a leadership role.”
Sheehan and fellow returning starter, junior Will Eisold, have been part of a defense that he says has been “lights out,” adding the Patriots are “still a force to be reckoned with.”
“Right now, we’re 9-3-2. We sit atop the league. If we win our last two, we win the league. That’s real big.”
He credits White, a standout at the Haverford School and Wake Forest who played professionally in Europe for several years, for keeping the team at the top of the standings.
“I was upset in the beginning (when Gorni retired),” said Sheehan. “I didn’t who they were going to hire. With Jeremiah, as I got to know him more, I got to see what a fantastic coach he is. He had something like seven years in Europe playing professionally. He was the ACC Player of the Year, and he’s in the Wake Forest Hall of Fame. They won the national championship.
“He has a different set of eyes, and he’s really knowledgeable of the game. He knows how to play with what you have.”
From White’s perspective, a leader and player like Sheehan has been a blessing for a first-year coach to rely upon.
“He has been a rock solid member of the East team for four years, and has been our insurance policy on the back line,” said White. “He is fast, physical and most importantly, has the respect of his teammates.”
As for the future, Sheehan’s version of a utopian scenario would be to attend Pitt and play soccer for the Panthers.
As it turns out, there is a glimmer of hope, as coach White knows the Pitt coach, Jay Vidovich.
“The future looks bright,” said Sheehan, not ruling out walking on or playing club or intramural soccer in college. “A lot of the schools I want to go to, I’m not so sure I could play there. They recruit from all over. There are smaller schools that I’m not so sure I want to play at. If it’s D-I, I’ll take what I can take.”
“My goal would be to go to Pitt, and possibly have that (relationship) as an advantage.”
Part of what White could explain to Vidovich is that Sheehan is playing out of position at center back for Patriots because that is where he is needed.
Admitting that his technical skills need some honing, Sheehan sees his speed, as well as “motivation and drive” as his strengths.
“Instead of center back, he (White) thinks I should play outside right back so I can charge forward more,” said Sheehan, who is hopeful of being an actuary. “He always says, ‘If I could have had you all four years, I could have made you into a great outside back.’ That’s what he sees.”
Said White: “Stephen is a natural outside back and has played in the defensive midfield in the past for East. We needed his physical presence and speed in the back line this year, and he has stepped in and has been an irreplaceable piece of our defensive unit.”
No matter how it goes, in terms of soccer, Sheehan’s academic standing can get him into almost any college he chooses. He credits strong lifelong study habits and skills for putting him in the position to play at the next level.
“It starts when you are young,” he said. “You have to develop good time-management skills then because it only bumps up when you are in middle school and high school. Junior year was really tough. Senior year, there is still a workload. I can’t slack off yet.
“Honestly, the high school season is the hardest part because you practice every day after school and all day, pretty much, in August. Once you get to club season, it is only three days a week.”
Still, it takes an amazing amount of dedication.
Then again, this is soccer we’re talking about.
And soccer has been very, very good to Stephen Sheehan.
“If I’m not playing high school soccer, I’m playing club soccer,” said Sheehan, who credited youth coach Chris Raghke and club coach Mike Moyer with developing both his skills and love of the game. “Other than that, I’m refereeing or coaching soccer.
“There’s not much time for anything else.”