Hours after helping St. Charles East win a regional title, Kevin Heinrich refereed a Campton United 8U soccer match on Saturday afternoon.
Being around his sport in any capacity is important to Heinrich, just as long as he’s not on the periphery.
Recently returned to the Saints’ rotation after breaking his clavicle in an Aug. 28 match at Streamwood, Heinrich views today’s 3A York Sectional semifinal as an enticing opportunity to plunge back in. The same Sabres will provide the opposition, and he’s eager to account for lost time.
“I’m not quite as confident with tackles as I was before,” he said, “but I’m really trying to prove to my team that I’m back and they can count on me.”
A junior defender who was starting at left back at the time of his injury, Heinrich revelled in the patented “special shoutout” he received from Norris Stadium public address announcer Neil Currie during his Oct. 6 return. The Saints were winding down on a 3-0 shutout of St. Charles North that clinched the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title, and in came Heinrich – wearing No. 23 after his original No. 4 jersey had to be surgically removed – to healthy applause.
Two weeks later, East (18-2-1) bombarded North, 7-1, for the Wheaton North Regional crown. Heinrich has logged varying minutes in the interim while impressing teammates with his resolve.
“He’s been at practice and he’s been working to get back,” senior defender Mike Macek said. “It’s been good to see him recover after his injury. We kind of rally around him because it’s a good comeback story for him.”
Heinrich doesn’t recall much about his injury, which involved him going high to win a ball and getting tangled with a Sabre before he “landed clear on my clavicle, hit my clavicle and got whiplash from there.”
One player’s father filmed footage of the play, but that only jogged Heinrich’s memory so much. He said the last thing he remembers was dashing in front of a Streamwood player to steal the ball moments earlier.
About 10 days after his fall, Heinrich had surgery and began navigating a dull recovery process. Because the collarbone isn’t a muscle, there wasn’t much Heinrich could do for physical therapy apart from lifting his hands above his head 20 times daily to rebuild strength.
Meanwhile, he watched classmate Jake Sterling fill his spot as the Saints continued to roll. East started 5-0 and has been unbeaten since consecutive shutout losses against Streamwood – the Saints’ lone conference blemish – and Lyons.
“We have so much talent on our team and I think that’s what makes us successful,” Heinrich said. “When we sub in, the game doesn’t change. We all have so much passion.”
That certainly hasn’t waned with a rematch against the Sabres looming.
“Last time we played them, it was a horrendous game for many reasons,” Saints coach Paul Jennison said. “One, the most important thing, is that Kevin was pretty badly hurt. It shook us pretty badly. Coming back from that, we were hoping we’d get another go at those guys.”
The Saints got their wish. Heinrich, too.
Knights jelling: Kaneland (15-3-2) enters Wednesday’s 2A Sterling Sectional semifinal armed with little familiarity with its opponent, Freeport. That the Knights know enough about each other is good enough for them.
After withstanding a persistent attack from regional host Burlington Central down the stretch of Saturday’s 2-1 win, players cited improved team chemistry as a factor.
“We were on and off at the beginning of the year, and as time progressed we really started to click,” Kaneland goalkeeper Marshall Farthing said. “About halfway through the year, we started to understand, started getting the passes connecting. The first half of the year, the other team would score right away and we would have to fight back. But then we started scoring first and we would just get the momentum and start working from there.”
• Kevin Druley is a sports writer for the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5347 or firstname.lastname@example.org.