Soccer player

Alex Barger is the Naperville Sun Boys Football Player of the Year

Alex Barger was a popular guy this season.

The Naperville North elder is one of those rare talents who grabs attention wherever he goes. Fans noticed every time he received the ball, many cheering and some teasing, and coaches plotting against him.

Then there were the opposing defenders who dragged him around the pitch, often in packs, an unwanted entourage of the desperate and determined.

The attention was understandable, though often unsuccessful.

“If you plan Barger in one place, he just goes somewhere else,” Naperville North coach Jim Konrad said. “It’s hard for teams to plan a game for him, let alone when you’re on the move.”

Konrad moved the Indiana-bound Barger down the field, playing him in multiple positions, often in the same game, in midfield and up.

No matter where he went, Barger, the 2022 Naperville Sun Boys Football Player of the Year, was a scoring threat.

“He still has that cannon hanging from his left hip,” Konrad said. “You can’t give him a thumbs up or he might shoot you.

“He has the ability to kick a ball with both feet, but his left foot is special. You have to respect that at all times.

Opponents did, hence the frequent double and triple teams. Barger didn’t care.

“The most important thing is that the pressure is a privilege,” Barger said. “I take it day by day, and it’s really something special when you have your eyes on yourself. I guess it gives the team more opportunities for me to give them, and we just work together.

Barger was equally effective in shooting and passing. He led the Huskies (17-4-4) to their eighth consecutive Division Final, scoring a team-high and career-best 14 goals and 12 assists, twice that of any other teammate.

What’s even more impressive is how the four-year-old starter led a talented but inexperienced group. Barger is the only player on the roster currently committed to playing in college, though others are sure to follow.

“We have a ton of new faces on this team, and I have high hopes for them for the next two, three, four years,” Barger said. “I think they can really bring it next year.

“But in terms of leadership, I try to elevate them as much as possible. We have a ton of guys filling new roles, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how they can adapt.

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Barger was a master of adaptation. He ended his career with 43 goals and 42 assists. He’s second on Naperville North’s career assists list and tied for seventh on the career goals list, even though he played defenseman as a rookie and his second season was limited to 13 games. due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Naperville North's Alex Barger takes a corner kick, which he bent into the net for a goal, against Wheaton Warrenville South in a Class 3A Bolingbrook Section Semi-Final on Tuesday 25th October 2022.

And those dream shots Konrad was talking about? It was beauty for football purists and nightmares for opponents.

Barger scored two in a 5-2 win over Wheaton Warrenville South in a Class 3A sectional semi-final, the last win of his career. The first was a corner kick he bent into the net, and the second was a 25-yard rocket.

“We expect him to score like that because he’s been scoring like that all season,” second-year forward Jaxon Stokes said. “It still stuns me sometimes, though.”

Barger will soon head to the Big Ten, but he won’t forget his time with the Huskies.

“It’s been a really special season,” Barger said. “My success is going nowhere without these guys. At the training ground, they push me to do my best. In every game, we always encourage each other. It’s really just a special group of guys, and I’m going to miss them all.

Matt Le Cren is a freelance writer for the Naperville Sun.