Updegrove, Carson set for state run
Nevada Appeal Sports Writer
In a society obsessed and entranced with athletes who are Bigger, Stronger, Faster, Carson Senators senior forward Adam Updegrove ” all 5-foot-6, 125 pounds of him ” is happy going on about business in his coolly efficient, quiet and understated manner.
Now you see him, now you don’t: In a sport where there is a surfeit of jersey-popping, look-at-me attention seekers, the 17-year-old Updegrove unceremoniously emerges from a crowd of rough-and-ready defenders and buries one of his team-leading 17 goals.
As another goalkeeper scratches his head and wonders why he never saw Updegrove coming, there goes “Cheerio,” attracting ecstatic teammates to him like a magnet.
And here come the Senators with their third consecutive Sierra League championship under their belt and the Spanish Springs Cougars on deck in the first round of the Northern 4A Regional Soccer Championships to be played at 4 p.m. Friday at Damonte Ranch High School.
Asked the secret to his team’s 14-1-1 record (12-1-1 in league), Updegrove says it’s in this year’s crop of nine seniors. Then he subdivides his answer into eight more good reasons in two concise, digestible sets.
First there are four juniors who have played with Updegrove on the Nomads, a spring club ” Brian Duran and his cousin Uriel Duran, Izzy Lopez and Jorge Guevara; then there are four seniors with whom Updegrove has grown up and developed ” Blake Moreland, John Nuthall, Brady Roser and Brandon Briggs.
And what’s Updegrove’s secret, he of the mind-boggling 4.75 grade point average; he who was voted Homecoming King two weeks ago; he who was named the Offensive Player of the Year in 2007?
“In soccer and school I’m not the best, but I really try hard. I do the best I can,” says Updegrove, who adds that he adheres to the following aphorism: “‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.'”
First-year head coach Nate Brigham says this season has been the result of a team effort and a strategy that has been set up to suit Updegrove’s style of play ” up top where he’s free to improvise by either going for the goal or passing it off to a an open teammate.
“He reads the game extremely well,” Brigham says. “He has very good skill on ball. He makes it look easier than it is. It shows how smart he is on the field.”
Updegrove has also proven to be especially difficult for opponents to handle when goalkeeper Briggs boots it downfield either out of the net or off a punt.
“His first touch is incredible,” Brigham says of Updegrove. “The ball goes 70 or 80 yards down to his feet and he takes a shot right away. It’s tough to deal with. We have a joke that he’s got glue on his shoes. When he tries to beat two defenders at the same time, 95 percent of the time the ball is bouncing around and somehow he ends up on the other side with the ball. It always seems to fall back to him.
“He’s a magnet. He gets triple-teamed in practice, the ball is bouncing around, bouncing around and Adam comes through with it on his feet.”
Though he’s known Updegrove for years, Nuthall never ceases to be amazed at his friend and teammate’s talent.
“He’s great to watch,” Nuthall says. “The way he comes out of those piles is unbelievable. I can’t believe I’m playing with him. He has such a low center of gravity, the ball stays at his feet. He has so much skill. If it is luck, it’s definitely on his side. He dribbles through four guys and comes out with the ball.”
A WELL RESPECTED MAN ABOUT TOWN
Great soccer skills are only part of the equation that defines Updegrove.
“He’s a great team leader,” Brigham says. “He’s a phenomenal player, but he’s also a well-rounded individual. He’s a great athlete who’s very good in the classroom. It’s hard to find people nowadays that perform that well on the field and in the classroom.
“Other than being a student-athlete, he’s a well-liked guy. Everyone on the team likes him. When practice isn’t going well, he lightens up the mood or gets things back together and gets the boys serious. Anything he asks the team to do, they’ll do.”
Nuthall says his fellow captain has personality and magnetism to spare.
“He has a way of motivating the whole team,” Nuthall says of Updegrove, who has played on Olympic Development Program (ODP) teams. “He brings the whole vibe. He pumps everybody up. When you look at him, you want to give him a big hug. He has an adorable face that the girls love, and the guys want to be his friend. He can do nothing wrong.”
Yet when well-deserved accolades come his way, Updegrove, an Eagle Scout no less, is surprised. Of his being elected Homecoming King, he says he didn’t think he’d win.
“Gus DeBacco was out there and he’s a really good guy,” Updegrove says. “I thought he would win. It was one of the most extraordinary moments in my life.”
Another was when he was named Offensive Player of the Year.
“I didn’t realize I was in contention for that,” he says. “It was pretty cool.”
FIRST THINGS FIRST
Updegrove, one of four children (his sister Nicole is a defender on the CHS girls varsity soccer squad), comes from a family of engineers and says that’s the direction he’s headed.
He’s keeping his options open and has drawn interest as a soccer player and a student from Princeton. Updegrove is also considering joining his older brother Alex at Division-III Rensselaeh Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, N.Y, where the majority of his family has attended school.
Equally unsure of whether he’ll pursue either mechanical or biomedical engineering, Updegrove will be a guest player in the upcoming Diablo Valley Tournament, where scouts from Cal Poly San Louis Obispo and California will be keeping a close eye on him.
For now, it will be up to Spanish Springs and the rest of the Northern and possibly Southern Nevada (the Northern 4A regional champion travels to Las Vegas for the state tournament) teams to try and keep the reserved Updegrove from getting lost in the crowd.
For Updegrove and the rest of the Senators, the postseason presents another opportunity to bring CHS its first state championship since 1998.
Carson didn’t allow a goal in the playoffs last year, but lost in the regional semifinals to South Tahoe 4-2 in penalty kicks.
“Like the last couple of years, teams are really close ” they’re not separated at all,” Updegrove says. “Last year we had only four or five seniors. This year we’re all fully developed. Blake, Brady, Johnny, Brandon and I have all played together and won the state 2004 club championship. We’re all here together again.”
Updegrove says as a sophomore and a junior he didn’t grasp how important it was to go to state, but he does now.
“I realize the significance as a senior,” he says. “I won’t be able to play high school soccer next year. The seniors and I are hoping that we can all take state this year.”
Content to raise his fist after notching an important goal, Updegrove is careful not to rub it into his opponents’ faces when he scores. But Nuthall says his likable teammate has a little something special in him waiting to get out if Carson can go all the way.
“When we were on the Wildfire team when we were like 10, every time Adam scored he did this flip thing,” Nuthall says. “What the cheerleaders do now, he could do as a 10-year-old. It was unbelievable. He’s a real modest guy…but it’s still in him. If we win state, I know he’ll go crazy.”
As with everything else Updegrove does, that would be a sight to behold.