Local Spotlight

Cardinal Dougherty and an alumni soccer match worth watching

Photo courtesy of Cardinal Dougherty Alumni

Cardinal Dougherty is alive and well. Just ask the soccer people.

“I’ll tell ya, soccer people are a different breed,” said Steve Schmidt, a 1985 graduate of Cardinal Dougherty High School in Philadelphia.

Those soccer folks have provided some good fortune to Schmidt, president of the Cardinal Dougherty Soccer Alumni, and his organization since their inception in 2015.

And they’ll step to the forefront this Saturday in North Wildwood, N.J. with the 2017 Cardinal Dougherty Soccer Alumni game featuring more than 50 players.

The school was once the largest Catholic school in the world. It closed seven years ago, but its alumni haven’t forgotten it.

Cardinal Dougherty, a brief history

Schmidt has been a lifelong soccer player and fan.  The youngest of seven, Schmidt grew up in Philadelphia’s Olney section just two blocks away from Cardinal Dougherty High School. Schmidt played youth soccer first for Olney Athletic Association and later moved on to the Olney Soccer Club.

High school was an easy choice for Steve. In fact, it was no choice at all.

“It was my local high school,” Schmidt said. “Back in the day, you didn’t have a choice of what high school you went to.”

However, don’t think that CD wasn’t a great fit for Schmidt. “I lived closer to my high school than my grade school.  Not a lot of people could say that.”

CD was originally founded as co-institutional, so a wall separated the boys from girls and the only section of the school for both was the Chapel. The Roman Catholic High School was the product of a period of growth and expansion for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia which began in the early 1950s.  The school system took advantage and land was purchased for the school in 1955.  Construction quickly followed and the school officially opened its doors on September 5, 1956 to roughly 2,650 students – the majority of which were freshmen.

The school was named after Dennis Cardinal Dougherty, who preceded the then-Archbishop of Philadelphia, John Cardinal O’ Hara. O’ Hara proved to be a key figure in the conception of CD High School and he officially dedicated the school on October 28th, 1956.  Nearly 15,000 people came to tour the building that day.

In 1983, the school transitioned from co-institutional to co-educational, so boys and girls were educated in the same classroom.  The change took place during Steve’s junior year. When asked of the transition period during his junior year, Schmidt said, “When it was an all-boys school, I didn’t wear socks and my tie was hanging all off and I didn’t wear a belt. When the girls started to come, I would actually look nice.”

One cannot mention CD without bringing up their marching band. Prior to Schmidt’s heyday at CD High, the school’s marching band were unrivaled throughout the 1960’s and continued into the 70’s battling the likes of Chichester High School Band among others.

Paul Lukert, Steve Schmidt, Larry Teal. (Photo courtesy of Steve Schmidt)

Throughout the 1960s, the CD Marching Band played at the Vatican to perform for Pope Paul VI, Washington D.C. for the inauguration of the nation’s 2nd tallest president, Lyndon B. Johnson, and at the 1962 NFL Championship at Yankee Stadium between the New York Giants and the Green Bay Packers. That game was played in 50 mph winds and temperatures were in the teens. The band also performed for a Moroccan Princess, a Philly native, and won a World Championship in the Netherlands in 1966.

A local soccer institution

Cardinal Dougherty was no slouch when it came to athletics either. Cuttino “Cat” Mobley, also an Olney native, and Kyle Lowry both began their NBA careers at CD.  The high school enjoyed success on the pitch as CD during the better part of three decades and Schmidt’s older brother was a member of the 1980 CD soccer team that was defeated in the Northern Division championship.  CD sports were something Steve looked forward to throughout his grade school years.

“Throughout the 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th grade years, I went up and watched his [older brother’s] team play soccer. In 1980, I was in 7th grade when they [CD soccer] won the Catholic League Championship,” Schmidt said. ” So I’d walk up and watch all the games.”

While attending CD High himself, Schmidt played JV soccer and he jokes that he was “a very good benchwarmer.”  However, warming the bench proved to be impactful for a young Steve Schmidt as he was introduced to a man who he described as a great guy and a current close friend, Hugh McInaw.  McInaw was a North Catholic prep standout where he won three straight League Title Championships and he coached at CD from 1980-1995.  He then went on to coach at the collegiate level – first as an assistant at St. Joseph’s University and then as the head coach at Temple.

McInaw, among many others, proved to be helpful when Schmidt expressed a desire to relaunch a CD Soccer Alumni event.

“When we started this program three years ago, one of the things we did was reunite soccer players,” Schmidt said. “He [McInaw] came to the first event and we ended up talking three times a week.”  Schmidt explains he enjoys the occasional breakfast or lunch with McInaw and his wife in addition to their weekly talks.  “It’s funny, when he was a coach he was a quiet guy. He didn’t talk too much to us off the field, Schmidt joked.

Resurrecting a classic alumni game

The CD Alumni Game had been a fixture of the past but after the school closed in 2010, the Alumni Game died as well.  The Spring of 2015 changed all of that when Schmidt and Larry Teal (a 1994 CD graduate), decided they wanted to give the game another shot. However, Philadelphia was not the site for their event so they had to think elsewhere. Cardinal Dougherty still holds annual reunions in North Wildwood, N.J., so Schmidt and Teal decided to stage an alumni game the morning of the 19th Annual CD “Soar at the Shore” Reunion. Schmidt took that trip down the Atlantic City Expressway $1,500 in debt and rented a field, bought insurance, t-shirts, water, and (of course) Gatorade. Their self-described ‘shot’ turned out to be a bull’s eye as 32 players showed up, along with roughly 150 spectators. The results were deemed promising.

The crew continued to talk about the future and what CD Soccer Alumni is and could become.  Their purpose was simple: Reunite the Cardinal Dougherty soccer community and make the alumni game a regular event.  Eventually, talks of a CD Soccer Hall of Fame emerged and it saw the light of day — Schmidt, Teal, and company launched the CD Hall of Fame during the 2016 Alumni Game.

The CD Soccer Alumni had an official 14-person committee in 2016 instead of just Schmidt and Teal, and it was able to secure 23 sponsors for the 2016 game (all of whom were proudly displayed along the fence during the match).  The committee also inducted 12 people into the CD Hall of Fame and another self-described ‘gamble’ paid off for Schmidt and Teal when the 12 inductees were officially enshrined at a banquet event that October.

As Schmidt said after that event, “The rest is history.”

The big game is Saturday

This year’s alumni event is taking place Saturday morning in North Wildwood, N.J. More than 50  players are expected to show off their skills (however rusty they may be), and over 500 people are expected to be in attendance. The 21st Annual CD “Soar at the Shore” takes place the same day with festivities to begin following the match.

The first year, Schmidt says $300 earned from the match was donated to a local soccer club for team t-shirts. Last years’ game raked in $14,500 and was then redistributed to local Philadelphia soccer-related charities or Dougherty community people who are in need.  Along with the charitable donations, the CD Soccer Alumni has set up two scholarships named after the school’s first two soccer coaches: Girls’ coach Betty-Ann Kempf (the current West Chester women’s head coach) and boys’ coach, the late Bob Hughes.  The scholarships are awarded to two local children who play soccer and attend a Catholic school.  The children must also have a parent or grandparent who is a proud Dougherty alum.

CD Soccer Alumni’s charitable efforts are impactful and symbolic of the organization’s purpose at large: to unite the community. Schmidt listed examples of how the group has assisted others financially: “We found out a family had an accident and we were able to help with bills. Another family’s house burned down and we were able to walk over four days before Christmas to provide gifts.”

By sponsoring and donating to local high school sports charity events or making tuition payments for families struggling, the CD Soccer Alumni gives back specifically to the Philadelphia area. “We’ve never said no to anybody,” Schmidt says.


  1. I am a proud 1986 C.D. grad. My brother, Bill, and I will be at the game. We both played C.D. soccer for Hugh McInaw. Steve Schmidt was known and loved by everyone at Dougherty in the 1980’s. He was like the mayor of the school. It doesn’t surprise me at all that he is the person that stepped up and started the C.D. Soccer Alumni Association. I had a blast playing in the game last year and seeing so many familiar faces from the past. I plan to attend every year for the rest of my life.

  2. Bobbie Martin Ciaramella says:

    I am proud and honored to be apart of the CD family. Steve, you and your committee have made a wonderful dream come true. Thus was an awesome testimony to our school and it’s alumni. See you soon!

  3. had a great time at the game even thou every body had too help me up after falling down ha ha guess my career is over but ill be back every year too celebrate thanks too you steve

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