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Brophy Prep soccer star Matthew White gives through foundation

Phoenix Brophy Prep senior Matthew White has learned in life that there is much more than kicking a soccer ball and scoring goals. There is a desire to help, to give to those in need, and to see others prosper.

He does that through the Freekicks Foundation which his older brother Connor started about eight years ago. When Connor graduated from Brophy Prep in 2019, he handed it off to Matthew, who gets his kicks giving a soccer ball to a refugee from Iran, the Congo or other parts of the world who are trying to find their place in the Phoenix area.

“Something as simple as a soccer ball,” White said before a recent Brophy soccer practice. “We have 23 of them right here. Even just one of them, giving it to a refugee child, their smile. That’s all you need. It lights up the world.”

The nonprofit organization collects new or little-used soccer equipment and clothing for underserved communities. Matthew helped his brother with it since Connor started it as an eighth grader.

“Fortunately I was able to take it over,” Matthew said.

Related: The Republic’s Athletes of the Week: Perry, Tucson High, Brophy students net honors

White said he works with the Welcome to America project in Tempe, collecting soccer balls and other gear for refugees around the world.

“I went to a Catholic school through middle school and we had to do service work,” Matthew said. “But it wasn’t like we had to do it. It was we got to do it. I tried going out with Connor and the Welcome to America project. This was different. It gave him a passion. It gave him a purpose. I followed suit. It’s something you look forward to doing.”

Brophy Prep (11-1-2) is looking forward to making a run toward a 10th 6A state championship game behind White, who has scored 13 goals, four in the last three games. He has scored eight goals since Jan. 5. Brophy Prep is ranked sixth in 6A by the Arizona Interscholastic Association and third overall by The Arizona Republic.

Last year was a blip for Brophy, losing five games and bowing out in the 6A quarterfinals. That’s considered a subpar season for Brophy soccer standards, a program used to reach the final and is used to vying for national championships.

George Archuleta lasted just one season as head coach, followed by Paul Allen. who led the Broncos to three consecutive state championships. It was the first time in forever that Brophy went outside the school to find a coach.

The school brought back alum Marc Kelly to lead this year’s team. Kelly, a ceramics teacher who played soccer and graduated from Brophy in 1987, had never really left.

Kelly stepped down as Brophy’s coach 10 years ago, after leading the Broncos to a 242-21-5 record and three state championships.

“I’m the lucky one, frankly, to be around all of these guys,” Kelly said. “It’s deep in talent and experience. Eighteen seniors out of 24 guys. There’s guys just begging to get on the field who would be top individual players on other teams.”

Kelly said when he returned to the field, one of the players asked him if he was at any of the games last year.

“I said, ‘Not only did I not miss a game last year, but I don’t think I’ve missed a Brophy soccer game in 23 years,’ ” Kelly said. “Even though I took a retirement, I was still connected at all times to the group. Even the guys who followed me were my assistants and former players.”

Brophy soccer has always been connected through alumni. Kelly welcomed 2020 Brophy grad Anthony Hidago to help coach. He was part of two state championship teams. Hidago is still playing. He signed to play next year at Gonzaga.

“He’s a young guy who still cares about Brophy soccer,” Kelly said. “He still has the fire to be on campus.”

Kelly also brought in another former Brophy standout, Mike Garlick, a 1989 graduate, to help coach. Garlick volunteered his services.

“This school is a differentiator,” Garlick said. “Brophy is different. There is a real sense of brotherhood and community. We come back. I live down the street. I’ve been coming to games here for I don’t know how long. And Marky, my friend, a guy I used to play with, got the head coaching job. I was like, ‘Hey, man, if you need some help, I’m here. And that was it.’ “

It’s been a rewarding season so far, with the goals still coming, and with a group of players who feel they’ve got something to prove after falling short last year in the playoffs.

“MK (Marc Kelly) knows what Brophy’s about probably better than anyone,” White said. “It was hard to take (last year). But the guys on that team coming back said, ‘We can’t let that happen again. We have to come out strong this year.’ Our results have shown that.”

Read more: Amid hearing loss, Combs student finds purpose in basketball

To suggest human-interest story ideas and other news, reach Obert [email protected] or 602-316-8827. Follow him on Twitter@azc_obert

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