Kevin Mejia of Clarke.

Kevin Mejia of Clarke. Credit: Rodolfo Chacon

It was right before a European handball game in gym class two years ago when Kevin Mejia yearned to try something new.

Mejia isn't afraid of change. In his first two years on Clarke's varsity soccer team, he had started at 10 of the 11 positions at least once.

So after thinking about it for a little while, Mejia decided to approach his gym teacher, Matt Germaine, who is also the soccer coach, with an idea. He wanted to try playing goalie.

"European handball is tough for a goalie," Germaine said. "But, I told him sure. And man, he looked pretty good. He's an exceptional athlete."

"You could just see the cat-like reflexes," said Clarke captain Rodolfo Chacon, who also was in that gym class. "He impressed that day."

Mejia, a sophomore at the time, then approached Germaine with another idea -- playing goalkeeper on the soccer team.

"It was the perfect timing," Germaine said. "We had a run here of about 12 years where we always had a good goalie. Last year, we were going to enter the season not knowing who would be goalie. Then Kevin stepped up."

Mejia said the following summer, he practiced six days a week. It paid off. Mejia played well in his first year as goalkeeper last year, making 110 saves.

"I love the position," Mejia said. "And I love the pressure that comes with it."

That's a good thing for the Rams (2-2-3), considering Mejia actually is the only goalkeeper they have.

"He's been huge for us," Germaine said. "To find someone out of the blue like that to fill a hole and to play as well as he has is just amazing. He makes all the big saves for us."

This season, Mejia has emerged as one of the leaders of a defense that has allowed only five goals. Clarke also is the only team to hold last year's Class C state champion Friends Academy (now in Class A) scoreless this season.

"We think we have enough to compete for a top playoff spot," Mejia said. "We have the offensive and defensive parts we need."

Now they also have a dependable goalkeeper.

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