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1,300 miles from home, Bugeaters FC play friendlies in Atlantic City and Delaware

Nebraska team was in the area for a pair of matches over the weekend

Matt Ralph

Backing up the talk that they will play anyone anywhere, Nebraska semi-pro club Bugeaters FC traveled 1,300 miles to play greater Philadelphia teams Atlantic City FC and Bearfight FC last weekend.

After making history as the opponent in Atlantic City FC’s first ever game at Stockton University in a 5-3 loss on Saturday, the Bugeaters beat Bearfight FC 4-1 Sunday afternoon at Kirkwood Soccer Complex in New Castle, Del.

“It’s exciting, it’s been great, everyone has been really nice,” said Bugeaters captain Keegan Boyd, who joined up with the team after finishing classes at Creighton last week. “If you hung out at the hotel or anywhere else you wouldn’t be able to tell that we just met each other a couple days ago.”

Saturday’s game against Atlantic City FC was just the team’s second after traveling to South Dakota to play NPSL club Sioux Falls Thunder FC in late April. The Bugeaters won that match 3-2 with many of their college-age players unavailable.

“We thought taking a trip like this would be a great way to bring the team together and prepare for the season,” team owner Jonathan Collura said.

A Nebraska native who lives in Dallas, Collura has an ownership stake in several lower division clubs in England and the U.S. His latest venture officially launched in January and quickly made a name for itself for its unique nickname, which was a moniker given to Nebraskans in the late 19th century. The Bugeaters kick off their first United Premier Soccer League campaign this Saturday against Barilleros FC in Kansas City.

The genesis of last weekend’s trip occurred at the United Soccer Coaches Convention in Philadelphia back in February. Collura and Atlantic City FC officials came up with the idea of a Surf and Turf Derby between the teams that were both officially launched only weeks earlier. While at the convention, Collura also met Bearfight FC president Jeremy Sharpe, who offered a chance to add a second game on the trip.

The rest was just details like finding a field, Sharpe said.

“It’s so much fun and there’s definitely a little, it’s almost a fraternity or something like that it just kind of sprouts up,” Sharpe said of the grassroots soccer scene. “We just see a lot of different people, different backgrounds and perspectives all kind of wanting to build this lower tier thing in soccer and build soccer in the U.S.”

Bearfight FC recently completed its first season in the second division of the United Soccer League of Pennsylvania, finishing fourth in the seven-team table. The team was founded (at a bar in 2013) as an outgrowth of a Philadelphia Union supporters known as the BearFight Brigade.

They finished on the wrong end of a 4-1 scoreline on Sunday after heading into the second half tied at one a piece. British forward Daniel Whitehall scored his second hat trick on the weekend while Tobias Maertzke added a goal. Jayson Herrera scored for Bearfight.

“Credit to the Bearfight guys; they put up a good fight,” Boyd said.