Hickman defenders Omeed Latifi and Gabe Widmer couldn’t be more different.
Latifi is a hard-hitting, fast-talking left back. He’s gregarious, loud and confident. He is cut, quick, with dark features and lots of stubble. He plays with reckless abandon, sometimes too reckless, as even he admits. Chest-bumping teammates after goals, tackling threatening-opponents hard and starting the counter-attack quickly is all in a day’s work.
Widmer is smaller, with light brown hair that is fitting for his boyish-looking features. He’s shy, and speaks with a slight Southern drawl when he does speak. He’s the controlled center back, patient and aware, communicating with everyone, covering up other’s mistakes, a last resort in front of goalie Brent Tegerdine.
But as a tandem, the Hickman All-District defenders anchor a strong back line that the Kewpies hope will lead them to their first district title since 2003.
Latifi, a first-generation Iraqi whose parents emigrated to the U.S. 25 years ago, is no stranger to district play. He made his first appearance on varsity during the Kewpies 2003 run to the district title.
Junior goalie Tegerdine and Widmer, both seniors, were paired up all last year, along with departed All-District defender Travis Tegerdine and goalie Drew Huckla, to form one of the strongest backfields in the state.
Latifi says that all three of Hickman’s defenders’ personalities manage to come into play on the field. Yet, the amount of time spent together, on and off the field, has allowed the Kewpies players to find the perfect balance.
That balance was thrown off a little during Hickman’s 1-0 loss to Helias on Oct. 2. Latifi was tagged with a red card, earning himself a one-game suspension for the Kewpies regular-season finale against Rock Bridge.
He was back for Saturday’s district quarterfinal in Jefferson City. His presence was felt immediately, as the No. 4-seeded Kewpies shut out No. 5 Camdenton, 2-0. That win leads them to a rematch against the No. 1-seed, Helias.
Widmer and the Kewps were well aware of what was at stake with a win Saturday.
“It provided a lot of motivation for us,” he said. “The Helias loss was frustrating, but whoever stays focused and plays well throughout the game can win the title.”