Ex-Leopard Page now soccer star in Florida
As a freshman and sophomore at Belle Vernon Area, Josh Page flashed his brilliance on the soccer pitch.
During those two seasons, he recorded 45 goals and 46 assists, and helped guide the Leopards to a collective 40-7-1 record, a WPIAL final appearance, a WPIAL-semifinal appearance, two PIAA wins and a pair of PIAA quarterfinal appearances during those two years.
Page was named All-WPIAL as a sophomore and all-section both years, and his All-PIAA snub as a sophomore was questioned by many. His 52 points as a sophomore (25 goals and 27 assists) are a single-season school record.
Going into his junior year last fall, Page and his Leopard teammates were going to be one of the heavy favorites to net a WPIAL Class AA title.
And while BVA made an impressive run to the WPIAL semifinals and earned a PIAA berth, it did so without Page.
Much like LeBron James in 2010, Page took his talents to Florida a year ago.
The only difference was that while James ended up in Miami and has won two NBA titles, Page landed at East Lake High School in Tarpon Springs, 25 minutes from Tampa. East Lake has an enrollment of 2,343 students between ninth and 12th grade.
Like James, Page has a few titles under his belt.
After Page helped lead East Lakes to the Pinellas County championship, he scored the game-winner in overtime of the District semifinal and the game-winner of the District 5A championship match.
The district title is equivalent to the WPIAL title here in Western Pennsylvania.
East Lakes then took home the Tampa Regional title and made the state Elite 8 in Class 5A.
East Lakes coach Alex Stenson, a 30-year veteran, has nothing but praise for Page.
“Josh is the most natural goal scorer that I have ever had,” Stenson said. “He works hard and has a good attitude. If he puts his mind to it, he could make a career out of (soccer).”
Page is drawing interest from several colleges.
This past season, Page netted 21 goals and 12 assists and was named the The Tampa Tribune Soccer Player of the Year, the Pinellas County Player of the Year and was named Player of the Week twice.
“I expected challenges going into the season coming from a 2-A school and going to a 5-A and I am very thankful for what's happened,” Page said. “I had team goals and individual goals going into the season, and I am all for the team first and want us to do our best.
“I work hard so that I can help the team do well. But I couldn't have won the awards without my teammates.”
Thanks to his success, Page has been chosen to do the opening coin toss at the Tampa Bay Rowdies match this Saturday.
The Rowdies are defending champions of the North American Soccer League.
“I am truly blessed,” Page said. “God has been so good to me so far.”
Page's move came when his father Scott took a regional sales manager job with Southern States Toyota in Tampa.
Now headed into his senior school year, Page has made the adjustment to the larger school in a larger area, but he is still getting used to when the soccer season is played.
Teams in western Pennsylvania are gearing up for the start of camp next week, but the soccer season is during the winter months in Florida.
“It was so different,” Page said. “Usually going into the start of the school year you train with your teammates,” he said. “But last year I was on my own at first, but it was better for me so I could adjust to the humidity.
“Going into the winter ... it was like summer in Pennsylvania.”
Even though Page now resides 15 minutes from Clearwater Beach, he has flown home twice to the Mon Valley this summer and Kerekes has seen him often.
“Josh has been to seven or eight of our off-season workouts this summer,” Kerekes said. “He keeps in touch with everyone, and he doesn't realize how much the younger players look up to him.
“We had a great run last season (without Page), but it felt like we were missing part of our family.”
When asked how the team would have done had Page stayed, Kerekes let out a hearty chuckle for several seconds.
“We will never know what would have happened, but I know that there wasn't another team sad to see him move,” Kerekes said. “The WPIAL title, I think we would have been there at the end and I think we could have competed for a PIAA title as well.”
Had Page remained at BVA and stayed healthy, he would likely have shattered the BVA goals record of 69 set by 1990 graduate Mike Posey, and he could have ended up in the PIAA record books as well.
According to www.pasoccercoaches.org, Page's 46 career assists are tied for 34th all-time in PIAA history. If he would have averaged his two-year total over a full four seasons, Page would have finished fifth all-time in assists in PIAA history with 92.
While Kerekes could have played the “what if” game about last year and this season, he said Page is better off now.
“It was the right move because he can play year-round and the talent level is incredible,” Kerekes said. “But with Josh, I knew he would do well down there.
“He is a rare athlete. There are good athletes who play soccer and good soccer players who are athletes. Josh is both.”
As far as his senior year, Page is excited.
“I have been talking to (Stenson) about things and I am excited,” he said. “He wants me to be a leader on the field and off of it.
“It is a lot of pressure but pressure excites me and gets me going. I love challenges.”
Bill Hughes is a freelance writer.