tampabay.com

Soccer: Another explosive start

Julio Perez already has scored 12 goals for a strong Alonso team.

By JOE SMITH
Published November 25, 2007


TAMPA - Julio Perez's favorite movie is fitting, considering his futbol feats.

The Alonso senior loves to watch "Goal!," an underdog story about a poor Mexican-American immigrant chasing his dream to play soccer in the states.

"It's a lot like me," Perez said with a grin.

After all, Perez took the long road to becoming one of the county's most creative and explosive scorers. The 5-foot-8 native of Colombia racked up five goals and two assists Saturday in wins for Alonso 6-2-2 against two 2007 state semifinal teams at the Tampa Prep Challenge Cup.

Perez, who scored 29 and 24 goals in his first two seasons, has 12 in the Ravens' strong start.

"He's one of the best players I've ever coached," Alonso coach Ray DiPompo said. "Julio can do it all."

Before he could wow crowds, Perez had to wait. And wait. His mother, Cristina, moved to the Tampa area and remarried a local bill collector, Jeff Sheppard, in 2003.

But it took two years for Perez's paperwork to go through, forcing him to stay back with his aunt.

"It was tough on him," Sheppard said. "It's not like he came from nothing - not at all - but he definitely wasn't born with a silver spoon in his mouth."

When Perez arrived, he made a swift impact. In the second of back-to-back 20-plus goal seasons, Perez led the Ravens to last year's Class 6A state semifinals. The soft-spoken senior, who carries a 3.4 grade point average, carries himself well in tough soccer spots - so much so that "he's definitely going to be playing in college somewhere next year," Clearwater Central Catholic coach Jim Harte said.

Perez sparked the Ravens' back-to-back 6-3 wins over CCC and Orangewood Christian on Saturday, placing them second in the showcase behind the host Terps (7-0-1), who won it for the third straight year. Tampa Prep gave up just one goal in three victories over two days.

But Saturday, it was Perez who stole the show.

"The things he does with the ball, I've never seen anyone at that level play like that," Alonso goalkeeper Jordan Pelletz said. "He's got such quick shots - it's magical."