The word has gotten out about Prince Okegbe’s scoring prowess.
The junior forward and leading goal scorer for the Arlington boys soccer team is drawing two and three defenders almost every time he touches the ball. Against Fort Worth Paschal recently, he used that extra attention to his advantage.
The Colts trailed 2-1 with time dwindling down in the second half. Okegbe made his move toward the goal with the intention of getting off the game-tying shot. But, instead, one of the defenders stepped on his back foot, knocking Okegbe to the ground and drawing a penalty kick. Junior midfielder Kent Lawrence converted the PK and set the stage for a dramatic shootout victory for Arlington.
“What’s happening is people see that he’s scoring goals, so he’s getting two guys on him at the very minimum, if not three,” Colts coach Jeff Waldrop said after the Feb. 13 victory, which moved Arlington into second place in District 4-6A with a 4-1 district record.
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But Okegbe isn’t the only one who can find the back of the net. “We have other guys stepping up,” Waldrop said. “That’s what it’s going to take this year. If they’re going to target one of our guys, there’s always somebody open.”
Okegbe has little doubt he would’ve scored if he hadn’t been taken down. “He stepped on my back foot, and I just kind of slipped,” he said of the pivotal play. “Otherwise, I’m going to get a goal. I’m pretty confident.”
He’s also confident in his teammates to take care of business. One of those players who’s taking the pressure off Okegbe is Andy Stretch. The senior midfielder scored the first Arlington goal midway through the second half after his third attempt in a quick flurry of shots in front of the goal. Stretch also clinched the shootout with a shot in the bottom left corner of the goal.
“I’m so proud of my teammates,” Okegbe said. “Every time we go out, we go hard. We practice hard. We try to win every game step-by-step.”
The feeling’s mutual. Okegbe has earned the admiration of his teammates by continually improving as a player. Compared to his sophomore season – his first on varsity, Okegbe’s trimmed down, gotten faster and improved his on-field awareness.
“I’ve known Prince junior since he was in seventh grade and I’ve been watching him,” Waldrop said. “He’s grown tremendously as a player and as a teammate and his skills have improved. He’s always been real strong on the ball. We always teased him that most of his goals were inside the six-yard box. But he’s developed a shot.”
He’s also developed a comfort level in new surroundings. He came to the United States from Nigeria five years ago to live with his older brother. Okegbe struggled to adjust to life without his parents, who stayed behind in Africa. And at first, it was hard to make sense of folks speaking in that funny Texas accent.
“I come from a poor family, so I came here for a better education, to better my life,” said Okegbe, who plans to study business management and continue his soccer career in college.
Okegbe missed a recent after-school practice to volunteer at Mission Arlington. There he spent several hours carrying people’s donated clothing and other items in from their cars. Making his community better is as important as making his team better, he said.
“I think I’m a role model,” he said. “You try to serve your community and what ever’s around you.”