By STEVE GEOGHEGAN
Hour Staff Writer
NORWALK –When Jose Canahui was introduced as the boys soccer team MVP during the end-of-the-year banquet, for the second consecutive year, he received a standing ovation.
That, in itself, symbolizes what he meant to the program.
“It just shows how respected he is by his peers,” said Canahui’s mentor and head coach at NHS, Chris Laughton. “I’d never seen anything like it. We’re going to miss him but he left his mark and a legacy with the program.”
Canahui was the ultimate team player for the Bears in 2014 and made his presence felt in every game he played, thereby earning The Hour’s All-Area Boys Soccer MVP award.
The two-year captain and senior All-State and All-FCIAC standout moved from defensive midfielder as a junior to center back this past season, to anchor the team defense, and the move paid off in spades for Norwalk. Canahui led his team to a 12-3-5 overall record with appearances in the FCIAC semifinals and the Class LL state tournament second round.
Canahui has always stressed to his teammates to play like a family, and he credited the team’s success this past season to its cohesiveness.
“I think we proved people wrong,” he said. “They didn’t think we’d be as good as we were. We did OK and could’ve gone further but lost to Simsbury in the states.
“All the guys worked hard,” he continued. “We won the tight games and fought back to give other teams a game.”
As the center back or captain of the defense, it seemed Canahui was always in the right spots to disrupt an opposing team’s offensive attack.
That just doesn’t happen overnight, Laughton said, because he worked extremely hard to be a well-rounded player.
“Jose is a real smart player and has taken the time to learn the game,” the coach said. “Because he knows the game so well, it seems like he’s everywhere on the field. It’s a credit to him.”
Canahui’s defensive strategy was simple.
“I don’t like anyone getting by me,” he said.
Not only did Canahui excel on the defensive end, he also played more of a role on offense. He was involved on set pieces and was the team’s primary penalty kick specialist.
Canahui finished with five goals, two game-winning tallies (against Staples and Ridgefield) and another game-tying score (against Darien in FCIACs), and he also tacked on seven assists.
He wound up going 4-for-4 on PKs.
“I was nervous (taking penalty kicks) at first but I got in my mind that I had the most experience and then I didn’t feel as much pressure,” Canahui said.
The next challenge for Canahui will be succeeding at the collegiate level. He signed on to play at Southern Connecticut State University, one of the top Division II programs in the country, and is looking forward to the challenge.
“It’s a great opportunity,” he said. “I’ve played with two of the guys who are already there (Nacho Navarro and Kevin Joslyn). The coaches are great guys and I liked the team. I felt the same sense of family that we have at Norwalk.”
Laughton said it’s a great fit and the SCSU coaches are excited to have him.
“If the coach gives me a chance, he won’t be disappointed,” Canahui said.
With all of the great players Laughton has coached, Canahui ranks very high.
“He’s one of the best players I’ve had in my time at Norwalk High,” he said. “His performances on and off the field, his work in the classroom, he’s one of the top kids in my eight years. He’s been a big part of the success we’ve had.”
Being the last starter from the 2012 Class LL state championship team to depart the program hasn’t been lost on Canahui. Capturing that championship, an experience Canahui said was one of the best things to ever happen to him in his life, taught him about winning, working to be successful and pushing through no matter what happens on the field.
Canahui hoped he was able to instill that work ethic on his teammates. With the reception he received during the team’s banquet, the answer is a resounding yes.
“I found myself with a group of people who cared about me and I cared about them,” said Canahui, who was grateful to his teammates and coaches, particularly Laughton, for their help along the way. “I’m proud to have been a part of the Norwalk High School soccer team.”