As long as the Vikings have Shadrach Asadu, everything will be fine.
The Atlantic City High School boys soccer team is in the midst of one of the biggest weeks in program history. After Monday’s 4-0 win against Absegami, the stakes have been raised for the 12-0-1 Vikings.
Atlantic City, No. 6 in The Press Elite 11, heads to No. 9 St. Augustine Prep at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday. The Vikings follow that up at No. 7 Mainland Regional at 7 p.m. Friday. Both games have heavy implications in the Cape-Atlantic League American Division standings.
“We have to play the same way we played them in the beginning of the year,” said Asadu, who through Monday leads the state in goals, with 30, to go along with 10 assists. “We have to play harder than them. They’re great teams, so we have to come prepared Wednesday and Friday. We know it’ll be hard.”
Winning those games could mean the first CAL championship for the unbeaten Vikings. They tied St. Augustine 0-0 on Sept. 15 and defeated Mainland 2-1 three days later.
A CAL championship could also mean a favorable spot in the upcoming prestigious South Jersey Soccer Coaches Association Tournament, which seeds after this week. Atlantic City, which has never made the tournament, is ranked fifth in the latest poll Sunday.
“They’re determined to get things done,” coach Maurice Lozzi said of his team. “They have no time to worry. They just get up and play. I think that’s why we’re so tested. We went through some struggles. They kept fighting and are more ready for that.”
Even when Asadu, a 17-year-old senior striker, isn’t scoring, which has only happened in three games this season, he’s making the rest of the team around him better.
Duoy Luong, Jack Crooks, Cesar Romero-Pineda, Giovanni Paz, Eduardo Puerta and goalie Jonathan Murillo are among the other seniors who have stepped up into major roles this season.
Luong is second on the team with eight goals to go with six assists. Crooks has six goals and junior Jonathan Rivera-Blanco has seven assists. Murillo has six shutouts this season, and Puerta leads the defense.
“I have a better chemistry with the midfielders and the whole team,” Asadu said. “We’ve been playing together for four years. That’s the reason I’m scoring so much. The chemistry is clicking.”
An adversity like none other
Asadu was born in Ghana, West Africa, and moved to the United States in 2012. His English was already strong as it was taught in Ghana.
His parents, William Asadu and Dorcas Frimpong, never played soccer, but both enjoyed the sport and encouraged Asadu to play in high school. His uncle, Jacob Frimpong, did play.
“He was a very good player,” Shadrach said.
Last fall, William Asadu suddenly passed away from illness, causing Shadrach to go back to Ghana for the funeral and miss a portion of the soccer season. The high school held a fundraiser at Vagabond Kitchen & Tap House in Atlantic City to help with the costs.
“It was not an easy situation,” Lozzi said. “Everyone was there to help out. The high school community came out too and supported him.”
On Jan. 4, Asadu’s mother was getting off the bus to go to work at Spring Village health care facility in Galloway Township. As she crossed the busy Jimmy Leads Road, she was struck by two vehicles and killed.
Shadrach now lives in Atlantic City with his older sister Gifty Asadu, 26, and brother Daniel Asadu, 24.
“It’s been hard, but God’s been with us the whole year,” Asadu said. “He’s the only reason I still get up and keep going.”
Frimpong was a huge supporter of her son on the soccer field, and was an energetic fan, Lozzi remembered. His father wanted to make sure Shadrach was exceeding in the classroom, where he’s an A and B student.
“Every time I get on the field, I always play to make them proud,” Asadu said. “It’s been my motivation this whole season.”
Asadu is already the school’s all-time leading scorer with 77 goals, breaking the previous record of 42 last season. He is two goals away from breaking Akwasi Adu’s single-season record of 31 goals set in 2012.
Breaking those records would be special for Shadrach, but they won’t mean much more without winning, he said.
“To have this type of season so far, it’s a motivation for us,” Asadu said. “We look at the other schools that have success over the years and it motivates us. We want to do something before we leave and put this school on the map.”