With support of family, Cervantes ready for high school’s biggest stage

Jesse Cervantes, who has 30 goals and 28 assists, is a leader on the Panthers team seeking its first state title today.

Against+Valley+View+in+the+state+semifinals%2C+senior+Jesus+Cervantes+blows+a+kiss+toward+the+fans+in+the+stands+after+scoring+his+first+goal+of+the+game+in+the+second+half.+

Kathleen Ortiz

Against Valley View in the state semifinals, senior Jesus Cervantes blows a kiss toward the fans in the stands after scoring his first goal of the game in the second half.

By Kathleen Ortiz, Kingwood Park High School

Jesse Cervantes jogged to the 25 yard line, yelling alongside his teammates with a grin on his face. He had just scored his first goal of the 5A boys state semifinal game when he looked into the crowd and was momentarily shocked at what he saw.

There sat his three younger siblings and his parents.

Caught up in the moment and filled with joy, he blew kisses to the crowd. His mom Carmen took it as his way of saying “this is for you.”

“Winning that game, scoring the game-winning goal and having my family there with me was really memorable,” Jesse said. “It’ll stick with me forever.”

After scoring his first goal of the game in the state semifinals, senior Jesus Cervantes blows a kiss toward the stands as he jogs back up the field. (Katie Gerbasich)

Jesse was sure his parents would miss the game, and they weren’t among the families at kickoff. They were scheduled to work, but his mom decided they couldn’t miss the game. They bolted to San Antonio at the last minute.

“We can’t miss this,” Carmen told her husband Gilbert. “How are we going to miss this?”

Without telling Jesse their plans, they arrived at the Dub Farris Athletic Complex five minutes after kickoff.

After watching Jesse score the winning goal to send the Panthers to the 5A boys state final game, Gilbert turned to Carmen and said “Wow, that last minute thing was really worth it.”

Carmen and Gilbert Cervantes both work full time, but that wasn’t the first time they missed work to watch their oldest play soccer. Jesse understands how much of a sacrifice it is for them to cancel plans at the last minute or get off work early to watch him play.

“They’ve sacrificed a lot for me,” Jesse said. “And I’m very thankful for that.”

Carmen and Gilbert were both born in Mexico before moving to the United States at a young age. They grew up in California, where they lived until 2018. Carmen is a scheduler at Houston Methodist, and Gilbert has his own home improvement business.

Along with helping his dad complete side jobs on the weekends, Jesse takes a lot of responsibility at home.

He makes sure his younger siblings don’t fight. Jesse also sweeps and mops the house daily.

“I know they come home from hard working days, so I try to make it easier for them,” Jesse said.

His mom remembers fondly how Jesse would drape a blanket over her and give her a kiss on the forehead while she napped after a long day at work when he was younger. Now, he cares for his mom by being a good role model for his siblings and having food ready for her when she gets home from work on some nights.

“Whenever dad’s not around he’s like the male figure in our home,” said Carmen, whose husband often works seven days a week. “I feel like Jesse’s more our rock than we are to him.”

He’s missed his share of hangouts and soccer kick-arounds to take care of his siblings, but he knows the importance of setting a good example.

“He is the oldest and he’s kind of had that responsibility without us pinning it on him,” Carmen said. “He automatically knows that he is the one his siblings look up to.”

Jesse, Gilbert, Carmen, Abigail and Adan celebrate Galilea’s 5th birthday. (Submitted by Carmen Cervantes)

When he isn’t helping his dad on the weekends or taking care of his siblings, Jesse’s playing soccer. The senior is tied for second on the team with 28 goals and leads the team with 30 assists.

He started playing soccer when he was 6 years old at a Boys & Girls Club in San Clemente, Calif. And he was really bad at soccer. He enjoyed it, though, and his mom continued to take him to games. To her surprise, he was recruited to play club soccer the next season. He’s played club soccer ever since.

His mom started to notice him stand out on the soccer field when he would score goals and the entire sideline would erupt into cheers. That’s when he started blowing kisses into the stands as a celebration. It’s a sight his freshman sister Abigail Cervantes loves to see.

“It means that he really thinks about us and he wants us to know that he’s doing it, he’s getting everything he wants,” Abigail said.

When his family moved to Texas in 2018, Jesse and his parents researched teams in the area. He noticed Kingwood Park had won the district. He then checked the Panthers’ roster.

“This is a team that’s not just going to win this year, but is going to keep winning for years to come,” Jesse said when he noticed the large number of sophomores and juniors on the team. “It was perfect.”

His senior season will be over in a matter of hours, but he hopes to have an opportunity to play soccer in college. His mom wants him to know that they’ll be OK when he’s gone.

“We wouldn’t want to keep him from anything in his future or in order for him to be successful just so that he can continue helping his family,” Carmen said. “But he’s a really big help within our family.”

Today Jesse will help lead the Panthers in their first state final game in 11 years.

“Wow,” Carmen said. “That little boy that wasn’t so great his first year is now gonna play in the state final his senior year.”

His parents and siblings will be at the title game. This time Jesse knows they’ll be there for him, as he always is for them.

This story was originally published on Park Times on April 17, 2021.