FRYBURG, Pa. (EYT/D9) — Dawson Rhoads couldn’t believe his eyes.
At the end of the Fútbol Americas show on ESPN+, host Sebastian Salazar showed a clip of a youth soccer game in Butler, Pa.
There was the 11-year-old Rhoads, who will be a sixth-grader at North Clarion in the fall, punching a shot with his left foot past the keeper in a Butler Lightning 11-U match.
(Pictured above, Dawson Rhoads)
“Our guy Dawson Rhoads with the left-footed banger there, Herc,” Salazar announced as his co-host, Herculez Gomez, bellowed with excitement.
“It was super cool,” Dawson exclaimed.
It was a brief highlight, but one that meant the world to Dawson and his family, who have had to tackle some adversity over the past year.
Soccer has been the constant. A buoy in rough and uncertain waters.
The sport is a big part of the Rhoads family.
Mark Rhoads, Dawson’s father, played for two years at Westminster College before a chronic ankle injury forced him off the pitch.
One of his teammates with the Titans was Salazar.
The two remained close after their college days.
Mark sent Salazar the video of Dawson’s impressive goal, which was scored on Sunday, not knowing for sure if it would be aired.
It was on Monday.
“We were just watching the show — we watch pretty often,” Mark said. “Dawson got real excited when he saw it.”
“Mark shares a lot of videos with Sea Bass — we call him Sea Bass,” said Dawson’s mother, Diana Rhoads, who also attended Westminster College. “With their connection to soccer, he likes to do that. Sea Bass likes to see how Dawson is doing.”
Dawson is doing quite well.
There’s no mystery as to why — Dawson plays soccer virtually year-round.
“He basically gets maybe July off,” Mark said, laughing.
Dawson is on the pitch for two teams in Butler — the Lightning and the Pittsburgh Hotspurs, which will soon be rebranded as the Steel City FC.
Interestingly enough, Dawson plays two radically different positions on each team.
For the Lightning, he is dangerous goal-scorer — as the video on ESPN+ can attest. For the club team, he plays on the defensive end.
Dawson, though, has a clear favorite.
He said he enjoys scoring goals.
His parents just enjoy watching him excel while playing a sport he loves.
“I’m really proud of him,” Diana said. “He really puts in the work and the effort. It’s really fun to watch him succeed. It’s fun as parents to see your kids find their thing, find there niche, something that they’re passionate about and that they enjoy doing and that makes them really happy.”
Dawson, though, has had to recently overcome a serious medical scare.
In November of last year, the family noticed a lump on the left side of his neck.
Eventually, the mass was identified as an abnormal clump of lymph nodes and surgically removed on May 25.
The family had to wait a week for the pathology to return.
When it did, it was very good news.
The abnormal clump of lymph nodes was benign and Dawson was soon cleared to play soccer again.
The community of Fryburg and the surrounding area rallied around Dawson and the Rhoads family through the difficult time.
“We are giving all the thanks and praise to God for answered prayers,” Diana said. “(Dawson) had a whole village of people covering him in prayer, and it was more than appreciated.”
With that scare behind him, Dawson can focus on his ultimate goal.
“I want to go pro,” he said.
Mark helps Dawson as much as he can, putting his old soccer skills to good use.
“We do a lot of drills and stuff,” Dawson said. “Dribble back and forth together. He helps me a lot.”
Dawson older’s sister, Sophia, is also athletic.
The 13-year-old plays volleyball and is also a competitive swimmer.
That keeps the family quite busy.
“It’s the best kind of busy, though,” Diana said. “There’s nothing that makes us more fulfilled or happy that to see them doing all the things they love.”