December 9, 2013 10:20PM
By Ken Lipshez
WALLINGFORD — The selection of Lyman Hall’s Antonio Jandreau and Sheehan’s Drin Pacuku to the Class M All-State soccer team goes deeper than personal or even team glory.
It’s the celebration of a sport within the Wallingford community that ranges from the youth level right through high school.
“I’m really proud of Antonio and Drin,” Sheehan coach Lou Rodriguez said. “When two kids from both programs make All-State at the same time, it means we and the youth soccer program provides a positive atmosphere.
“Our programs have been good enough to compete and we’ve been proving that for the last four or five years, but [the SCC] is a tough league. To make All-State you have to be a good player and have a good team. We had both this year.”
Lyman Hall coach Arnie Jandreau echoed Rodriguez’s thoughts. He regrets that players like central defender Gardiner Schroeder and Alex Burr, senior captains who enabled the Trojans to play into the Class M semifinals and compile a 12-6-2 record, did not receive postseason acknowledgments.
“Playing in the SCC Housy is very hard. All the other teams are ‘LL’ except Sheehan,” Coach Jandreau said. “It ends up putting us low in the standings and the way they vote All-League and All-State, it just doesn’t happen. To do what we’ve done is hats off to Antonio, but many of the other players helped, too.”
Antonio Jandreau is one of the few high school stars who didn’t play premier soccer. Arnie Jandreau paid tribute to the Wallingford Youth Soccer League for his son’s prowess. He also noted that Antonio paid attention during his father’s coaching tenure at Lyman Hall, which spans 18 seasons.
Yet Antonio, who totaled 15 goals and 11 assists this season, is unlikely to play in college. He’s preparing to fulfill his lifelong passion of becoming a fireman by attending the Connecticut Fire Academy, but he said he would consider a Division II or III school if it had the right fit.
“It all depends on the school,” said Antonio, who has received inquiries from Albertus Magnus and Maine Maritime. “My friends tell me to go play, but I don’t know. We’ll see. There’s a meeting coming up in school about colleges with my guidance counselor, so I’ll have to talk to her.
“If was going to do it, I’d go hard at it.”
Arnie’s pride in Antonio has come through often this season. Coaching your own child makes it difficult to discern what’s right and wrong. Arnie’s approach obviously has merit.
“Antonio’s a real good player. He’s worked hard,” he said. “He’s home-schooled. I had the Xavier coach call me for Antonio to play in a tournament and he asked who he played premier for. I said he didn’t. He wanted to know how he got to be so good.
“He’s got that extra drive. He carried us early in the season. He kept the team in his control, but at the end everybody kicked in.”
Pacuku scored 14 goals and assisted on eight for the Titans, who went 10-5-4, including a first-round victory over Bullard-Havens in the Class M tournament. Like Jandreau, he was chosen to play in the Senior Bowl and notched two assists.
Pacuku lists Sacred Heart as his top choice for college, but he’s also considering Central Connecticut, Western Connecticut, Eastern Connecticut and the University of New Haven.
“My All-State selection is one of the best moments, but aside from personal accolades, being the captain and having such a good season even though we lost [to Montville] in the second round of the states … I couldn’t have asked for a better team to play for,” he said.
Pacuku, a native of Albania who came to Wallingford when he was 3-years-old, praised Rodriguez, his father Bob and other coaches who guided his way through youth soccer. “David Rodriguez was my youth soccer coach ever since U8 and he’s been like a father figure to me,” Drin said. “My CFC coach Paul Horta really helped me the past couple years by telling me I had to be more aggressive.
“All the coaches from Wallingford Youth Soccer have been great. Sana Sarr was the coach from my first premier team and he made me like soccer.”
Pacuku also made All-SCC for the first time as a senior.
“He not only became a leader, but believed in himself and his abilities,” said Lou Rodriguez, noting the difficulty of becoming All-State without All-League credentials as an underclassman. “He sees the field well. He’s very versatile and very technical. He has to work on his speed and quickness for college.”