Defender helped shut down Fort Dorchester's opponents
Rudi Hellberger's formative soccer years were played in Brazil where a "friendly" pickup game at the local field takes on a whole new meaning.
"It's pretty intense there because everyone takes it pretty serious," he said. "There's a lot of swearing. If you're not playing so good, you hear about it."
Hellberger, whose mother is Brazilian and father is German, moved into the United States at age 10 and he brought with him the foundation of everything he learned — except for the swearing, though if he was so inclined, he said he could drop a few choice Portuguese phrases into the onfield banter.
"You have to be careful with which refs you get. Some of them might understand it," Hellberger said.
The intensity Hellberger learned growing up in Brazil helped sharpen his game to the point that area coaches selected Fort Dorchester's senior defender as The Post and Courier boys' soccer player of the year.
Other members of The Post and Courier All-Lowcountry team include Summerville keeper Ronnie Murray, Bishop England defenders Alvin Hooper and Hunter Wilson, midfielders Luke Hogan of Wando, Shane Robinson of West Ashley and Justin Barlotta of Summerville, and forwards Austin Savage of Stratford, Geordi Khoury of Bishop England, Preston Myers of Lincoln and Lucas Hagerty of Academic Magnet.
The coach of the year is Pinewood Prep's Jason Birchwood, who led the Panthers to their fifth straight Class AAA SCISA state championship.
Hellberger, who signed to play for the College of Charleston next year, said he's been playing soccer "since he came out of my mom."
The neighborhood games would feature 7-year-olds playing alongside teenagers. He said he would play before school, during recess and then again after school. There was an accessibility to the game that he misses.
"There's no place to walk to to play. You have to drive to a field and call people to see if they want to play," he said.
Hellberger joined the Summerville Soccer Club shortly after moving into the area and grew into a mainstay on the Fort Dorchester team.
"Rudi is the best player ever from our school and perhaps the best raw talent I have ever coached," Patriots coach Anthony Pelton said. "He is a natural defender but has played the midfield and up top."
Pelton said his senior has a knack for winning balls in the air, so he pushes Hellberger into the attack on corner kicks, long throw-ins and other dead ball situations.
"If the ball is placed anywhere near him, his attacking header is usually lethal. What is crazy is that many teams will try to mark him with two players and he still has results like this," Pelton said.
Hellberger likes those situations and takes pride in his ability to win the jump balls.
"I think a lot of guys are scared to head the ball. It doesn't really hurt if you do it right, and I know how to get in good position," he said. "If the ball is up there, I'm going to get it."
He's versatile enough to play as a forward, but he said he's most comfortable playing center-back.
"I like knowing their players can't get past you — you're not scoring in my house, that kind of thing," he said. "As long as the other team isn't scoring, I'm happy. I really don't have a need to score. I don't care about anything else. It's about doing my job."
Reach Bill Henley at 937-5595 or firstname.lastname@example.org.