Jeff Boateng-led Lake View hitting stride at right time

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The year 2008 stands as a crucial intersection point in the fates of Lake View soccer and Jeff Boateng.

Five years ago, the Wildcats won their first state trophy in the sport as coach Fernando Rodriguez’s team completed an unlikely quest in the Class 2A state tournament to finish fourth.

That year also marked the arrival, on the North Side, of Boateng from his native Ghana in West Africa.

“My parents were already here then, and they filed the paperwork for me to come join them, and so I came,” he said.

“I’ve been playing soccer my whole life,” he said. His first choice of schools was Lane. “It didn’t work out for me to go there, and then I started hearing about Lake View. I went over there and found out they had a lot of good teachers, and so I told my dad that’s where I wanted to go.”

It has been a fortuitous action for both school and athlete. The electric 5-8 forward is one of the city’s best juniors and has helped the Wildcats sustain their recent success. Boateng started on last year’s team that lost a 1-0 heartbreaker to Wheaton Academy in a Class 2A supersectional.

“Last year we had some great players, and I was really more of a role player,” he said. “Now I feel like I’m one of the key players.”

Boateng has scored a team-best 13 goals to go along with five assists for the Wildcats. He has been at his best in the city tournament. He scored two goals and added an assist as Lake View stunned Solorio 3-2 in double-overtime to qualify for its first city title appearance Thursday against No. 2 Lane at Kroc Field.

His second goal, on a penalty kick, propelled the Wildcats to the city final. He also scored a goal in the Wildcats’ 3-2 quarterfinal victory over Taft on Saturday. He has performed at a high level despite a coaching change.

Rodriguez lost his teaching and coaching job at Lake View over the summer due to CPS budget cuts.

“It was hard for us when we heard the news he wasn’t going to coach us,” Boateng said. “At the same time, it didn’t really matter who was going to coach us. We were going to play hard whoever we played for.”

Lake View’s current coach, Jim Johns, recognized immediately Boetang’s tenacity and flair for the game. “He’s a bulldog who’s very tough and he constantly fights. He has a very talented left foot.”

Furthermore, Boateng’s spirit and will signifies the team’s fight and competitive streak.

“The whole team just plays with a passion and a fight, and you see that out there,’’ Johns said. ‘‘Even when they’re down, they keep fighting.”

Boateng has a low center of gravity and an excellent burst of speed. He has worked hard to develop his finishing capabilities.

“Being a younger player, I worked last year with the seniors and they told me what I needed to work on,” he said. “This year, I’ve been working a lot on my stamina and [maintaining] a high energy level.”

The team’s impressive showing bodes well for the start of the Class 2A tournament. The Wildcats are a dangerous No. 5 seed in the Ridgewood Sectional.

“We’re not done yet,” he said. “We still have one game to go, and if we beat Lane, we are going to make history at our school.”

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