BOYS SOCCER

Clark soccer gets a glimpse of the rainbow's end

2011-09-30T00:00:00Z 2012-08-30T23:51:23Z Clark soccer gets a glimpse of the rainbow's endBy Steve Hanlon steve.hanlon@nwi.com, (219) 933-4198 nwitimes.com
September 30, 2011 12:00 am  • 

WHITING | Bright, bold and beautiful, the colors made a giant horseshoe behind the back of Jose Juan Serrano Sr.

The red, green and yellow hues of a clearer than usual rainbow looked like a spiritual covering over the industry behind Clark High School's Fort Pioneer. Then, just below the symbol in the sky, a second rainbow appeared.

"It's a sign from him," Serrano Sr. said. "He is here with us."

Thursday night's Great Lakes Athletic Conference boys soccer game between Clark and Morton was much more than a game. While the conference title was at stake, it was a family reunion. It was a chat with an old friend.

It was Mass, the kind that brings tears and a smile to the participant.

The jersey number of Clark senior Jose Juan Serrano, No. 58, was retired during the Pioneers' Senior Night. He was shot and killed in a robbery attempt in Chicago on Aug. 4.

During the Senior Night celebrations, many of the Pioneers mentioned their fallen teammate.

Jorge Quezada wrote, "I love Torta. I miss him more every day."

Nicknamed "Torta" by his family, friends and classmates, Serrano had written comments to his teammates that were read over the Publix address system on a cool, rainy and windy night in north Hammond.

"I want you all to know that I love all you guys. Enjoy, cherish and live every second of your life."

Serrano was not academically eligible in his first three years at Clark. The blue-collar kid from the blue-collar family worked to help his kin out. But he made a promise to coach Jorge Torres that he would get his grades up.

He did. He showed Torres his grades on the last day of the previous school year. They were all Bs and Cs.

"This is the hardest thing I've ever had to deal with," Serrano Sr. said. "My son. He worked so hard."

Faviola Campos, Torta's cousin, said she spoke with a detective from the Chicago Police force on Thursday and they still have not apprehended the alleged killer in this case.

The slow-moving wheels of justice have been extremely hard on the family.

"He told me they know who did it, but he is not in custody," Campos said. "Every day we here about (other) cases and they catch the person in a day or two. It's frustrating that they still haven't caught this guy."

Like the pot of gold at the rainbow's end that myth and legend speaks of, there was still love and laughter when thinking about what Torta brought to the world.

His goal was to make people laugh, every place he was. His goal was to play for the Pioneers, after three falls of being the program's biggest cheerleader.

The fact that his team stormed back from a 1-0 halftime deficit and won the conference title 2-1 made the night that much more special.

Senior Geovanny Joya scored both goals, the winner coming with 6:33 left in the game.

"I thought about him the whole game," said Joya, who then spoke about the rainbow. "I felt him inside me. It was him playing through me. I felt his spirit here tonight.

"This is amazing. I'm very proud, very happy. But I wish he was here with us on the field."

This night was supposed to be played on Tuesday until rain cancelled it. The unsavory weather on Thursday had Coach Torres concerned. He wanted to honor Torta.

Athletic director Dave Verta sent a text to Torres in the afternoon that read, "It doesn't look good." So Torres went to a higher power.

"I prayed," he said. "I said, 'God help us.' Jesus kept the rain away. He cleared it up for Torta and us. I am sure the praying changes things."

The win locked up Clark's fourth straight conference title. The Pioneers raised their record to 12-3 and 6-0 in the league.

Torta was a big part of the halftime speech that changed the game.

"I reminded the kids who they were playing for," Torres said. "I asked them if they really wanted to lose this game. The boys stepped it up. They did it for Torta."

While there has yet been any resolution for the pain, Campos held on to the framed white jersey with "58" on it. She wanted to speak for the family and let all those who have lifted them up through this very difficult time.

"We want to say thank you to everyone who has reached out and helped us," Campos said. "This was his last dream. The team and the players are like family to us. We can never say thank you enough."

As she spoke the wind kept blowing and the clouds began to block the rainbow. As she walked away she spoke to Torta's father.

"It's disappearing," she said. "It's going away."

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