NETHER PROVIDENCE — Fifth-grade Nate Perrins didn’t fully appreciate the message or who was delivering it. Only in time would it fully sink in.
Perrins hoped his group of friends on the Nether United U-11s to U-13s teams would grow together, someday comprising the nucleus of Strath Haven’s storied high school program. As for the coach, well, at that point, he was little more than a teammate’s father; he was Larsen’s dad, and his wisdom sunk in.
“They really instilled it in us when we were younger to always play together,” Perrins said this week. “And they knew we were going to go to high school together.”
In retrospect, the source of that tutelage would grow more poignant. Larsen’s dad was John Hackworth, who at that point had been the manager of the Philadelphia Union, had coached the U.S. Under-17 squad and been an assistant for the senior national team, who stayed in Philly after the Union let him go in 2014. Larsen, a senior at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., and a UNC-Asheville commit, grew up a close friend of Perrins and many members of the nucleus of the 2018 Panthers squad.
Even when the Hackworths moved on from the school district — Hackworth is the coach of USL champion Louisville City FC; all three of his sons attended Strath Haven at some point, though not all played varsity — the lessons Perrins learned from John have endured.
“I may have taken it for granted because I didn’t know what it meant at that time,” Perrins said. “But now I’m really appreciative of that, and he taught me a lot of things. I wouldn’t be the player that I am today without him.”
The trip to the past indelibly resonates to the present for Perrins and his Panthers. The team made a historic run through the 2018 season, winning the District 1 Class 3A final and reaching the PIAA final, the program’s seventh state final and first since 2001. The primary driver for that success was a collective toughness that made the Panthers a nearly impossible postseason out. That cohesion traces to players’ youth days, under the guidance of Hackworth and others.
“This team has a lot of resilience,” Perrins said. “We’ll always keep fighting, and I think that showed. … It proves that we will never put our head down and just keep fighting.”
It also helped that they had Perrins, who scored 28 goals to go with 10 assists in a prolific season. That’s why Perrins is the 2018 Daily Times Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
Joining him on the first team are the Episcopal Academy trio of Trevor Manion, Harrison Malone and Sam Wilson; the Haverford School duo of Griffin Wada and Will Micheletti; Radnor stalwarts Evan Majercak and Eliot Hayes; Garnet Valley defender Jared Scheffler; Bonner & Prendergast midfielder/defender Andrew Markopoulos; Haverford midfielder Will Gardner and Penn Wood forward Romario Sterling.
Malone and Perrins are each making their second appearances. Seniors hauled down 11 spots, with the junior Manion the only underclassman. The All-Delco team is selected in consultation with area coaches.
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