Jason Santos leaves his mark at Lake Forest Academy

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LAKE FOREST — It was late in the summer of 2011. Stephen Payne, a Lake Forest Academy soccer player, had just set foot on campus and needed a friend to show him around. A long way from his hometown of Birmingham, Ala., it didn’t take Payne long to find a tour guide. His name was Jason Santos. “He was one of the main people to show me around campus,” said Payne, a junior midfielder. “If I needed help getting to a class, he would show me. He took me under his wing.” It wasn’t just around campus where Santos made new students feel comfortable. As a three-year varsity player for the Caxys, Santos was a stabilizing force in the team’s defensive back line. His tenure at Lake Forest Academy — which ended with the Caxys’ 4-1 loss to Lake Forest Oct. 16 — was a study in roles, with Santos going from a young contributor on a good, experienced team to a veteran presence on a rebuilding one. After a year at Chicago Academy, Santos transferred to Lake Forest Academy in 2010. The next season, the Caxys won nine games and were led by upperclassmen such as Joey Laboy, Craig Scott and Suleiman Thomas. “They had a lot experience in playing in touch matches and tough games,” Santos said. “I learned a lot from them.” Laboy, Scott, Thomas and Santos were the main contributors to a .500 Caxys team in 2012. By this fall, all three had graduated. Santos returned and the roles had flipped — he was the sage old veteran in charge of keeping the youthful Caxys competitive in the face of a challenging schedule. It was a circumstance the 5-foot-10, 165-pound Santos was ready for — he just wasn’t optimistic about the team’s results. “The beginning was tough. I was iffy about the team,” Santos said. “I was unsure if we’d be able to perform, if we’d be good.” A 6-0 loss to top-seeded Lyons in the opening round of the Pepsi Showdown in September did nothing to quell his fears. But a 2-1 loss to Wheaton South in the tournament’s third round showed signs the team was maturing with freshmen Nathaniel Shattock and Sang Yoon Park seeing significant minutes. On Oct. 3, the Caxys faced defending Class 3A champion Warren. With Santos holding the back line, the Blue Devils did not score. The 0-0 final was a representation of how far Lake Forest Academy had come and how Santos had evolved throughout his career. “He’s the model of what we want to be here. It’s hard to lose him,” coach Paul Makovec said. “He does everything we ask. He’s meant everything.” Payne said he’ll never forget how Santos was there to answer his questions during the impressionable freshman’s first few days on campus. That’s the legacy Santos hopes to leave upon graduation next spring. “It’s been an honor to play with him, having him back there as a rock,” Payne said. “He was always there to show me how things work (at school). Santos added, “I want to be known as a nice guy who was a leader and captain. I hope they listened to me and learned from my experiences.”

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