DOWNERS GROVE — Oak Park-River Forest senior midfielder Noah Fluharty grew up thinking his future might be in football.
His grandfather, Thomas Nunziata, played college football at Hofstra in the 1950’s and was the team’s leading rusher in 1953. While it seemed like football might be a good road for Fluharty to follow, there was one little catch.
“My grandfather was a semi-pro football player and he pushed football on me so I was never supposed to play soccer,” Fluharty said. “But my parents [Allan and Martha Fluharty] pushed me towards soccer because it was more safe.”
OPRF head soccer coach Paul Wright can envision Fluharty on the football field taking handoffs or catching passes from Huskies’ starting quarterback Lloyd Yates.
“He likes to put his head down and go so, yeah, I could see that,” Wright said. “He’s the workhorse and engine in our midfield and if he sees space he’s going to go at it and take it. He’s got that mind-set of ‘I need to go forward’ and he got a yellow card [Wednesday] because he tried to go through somebody.”
Fluharty’s aggressiveness might have earned him a yellow, but it also helped set the tone in the Huskies’ 2-0 win over Argo in the 3A Downers Grove North Regional semifinals.
He helped dominate the midfield, while Mavin Gill scored a pair of goals for OPRF (12-5-1). Goalie William Dunne had five saves against the Argonauts (12-7) to record his seventh shutout of the year.
While Fluharty could be playing on Friday nights, he’s thrilled with how things turned out.
“The relationships and friends I’ve made playing soccer are great,” Fluharty said. “Soccer is going to be part of the rest of my life and I really enjoy it every single day.
“And I’m glad that we’re not just out here having fun. It helps that we’re a very competitive team.”
Fluharty has embraced his role, even though it doesn’t include much goal-scoring.
“There’s really no individual player on this team,” Fluharty said. “We function as a team and I’m just happy to create passes through the midfield. I may not be scoring as many goals, but I’m happy to set up the other players. I’m fine with saying I didn’t score when my teammates are scoring and we’re winning games. That satisfies me enough.”
Senior midfielder Joe Gullo has been playing with Fluharty for 10 years and he likes Fluharty’s spirit.
“Noah always brings the energy, he has good ball-handling and he knows how to get the ball out wide,” Gullo said. “He’s always aggressive and keeps up the tempo for everyone else.”
“He really dictates the flow of the game by what he sees in front of him,” Wright said. “The last few games he’s been unbelievable in finding the gaps for us to attack or he lays the ball out wide so we can get more attackers and get a cross in.”
- The Huskies are slated to be back in action at 5 p.m. Friday when they take on Downers Grove South for the regional championship.“We just need to play our game and play team soccer, which has been stressed throughout the season,” Fluharty said. “We’re going to follow our game plan and not change it for a specific opponent.”