Position switch validated for Ringgold's scoring specialist

| Monday, Sept. 30, 2013, 11:48 p.m.

Frank Perez worried what people might say if he took his son, Jeremy, a starter the past three years in the midfield, and shifted him to striker.

So Ringgold's boys soccer coach asked his coaching staff.

“I said, ‘If you think we need to play Jeremy at striker, step up and say so,” Frank Perez said. “I would have played him in the midfield, but they said we needed him up top.”

It's a good thing Perez listened.

Jeremy Perez has flourished in his new position, scoring a WPIAL-best 21 goals, and the Rams have been better for it.

Entering Monday night's game against Albert Gallatin, Ringgold was 10-3-1 overall and 5-2-1 in Section 4-AAA, entrenched as a contender after bumping up to Class AA following the 2012 season.

“My finishing and goal scoring is a product of the team playing well,” Jeremy Perez said. “It's a product of everything we've worked for.”

Ringgold had won four of five, the lone exception being a 1-1 tie against Class AAA No. 2 Bethel Park on Sept. 24.

In that game, as has been the case in many others, junior goalkeeper James Snyder kept things close, allowing Perez and offensive complement Nathan Patton (10 goals) to go to work.

“He made a couple saves that were just out of this world,” Frank Perez said. “If he doesn't make them, we don't tie.”

Center back Josh Briscoe anchors the 3-5-2 defense, playing a role as the last line of defense.

Midfielder Connor Dudas has been another weapon on offense.

Frank Perez enjoys having his son as the team's top scorer, but he worries about the perception of nepotism. That's why he's extra tough on Jeremy and his other son, Brandon, a sophomore midfielder.

“I hope if you were to ask anyone this — and I'm sure that it's true of most parents — but I think I'm the hardest on my sons,” Frank Perez said. “I have to be so they almost overachieve, and then there's no question about why they're there.”

With Jeremy taking over the scoring role vacated by Nick Cichon, an all-state player who had 25 goals and 21 assists last year, that's been the case.

Frank Perez said his son relies heavily on his tactical ability and dribbling skills; while Patton is more of an energy guy, Jeremy Perez benefits from his intuition.

Playing center-mid for the past three years hasn't hurt, either.

“He has the natural talent to play the game and be a leader for the team,” Snyder said of Jeremy Perez. “Believe me, it always takes the pressure off the goalie if someone up top can put one away.”

It also takes the pressure off a team that went 14-4 and won the Section 4-AAA title but lost in the first round of the 2012 playoffs.

One that hopes to do considerably more damage this season.

Jason Mackey is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jmackey@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Mackey_Trib.

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