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GK: Zach Grindle, Wetumpka junior

The goals against did not show the whole story of how Grindle affected Wetumpka’s season. Despite allowing 2.1 goals per game, Grindle was one of the team’s captains because of his knowledge of the sport. He finished the year with 64 saves, including clean sheets against Pike Road and Saint James. Grindle’s top moment came in the final section game when he made multiple saves in a penalty shootout win at Calera. “He is helping bring about a foundation of a culture change for the program,” Wetumpka coach Desmond Knight said. “It’s giving our team some validity with that hard work. He was like our spark plug when we needed it because he would help turn up that intensity.”

D: Dylan Presciti, Stanhope Elmore junior

Stanhope knew the skill it had on its backline, giving captain armbands to both starting center backs. Presciti stepped up in his second year as a starter, playing in all 22 matches for the Mustangs. He was a part of 11 clean sheets while also adding two assists in the attack. Presciti will represent Stanhope at the North-South All-Star match in July. “He was never the most talkative but I could rely on him to tell me if something needed to change,” Stanhope coach Johanna Angelo said. “He would come to me privately and say, ‘We need to do this’ or ‘We should try changing this.’ He’s always looking to make improvements.”

D: Paxton Price, Holtville sophomore

When the Bulldogs had spots open on their back line, Holtville coach Robby Broom went to Price to fill the role. It did not take long to realize it was the right choice and Price became a full-time starter on defense. He scored one goal for the Bulldogs but made most of his impact in his own third. Price helped Holtville to five clean sheets in 13 matches. “He has always been a wing but he learned all of that in a year,” Broom said. “When I told him he could start as a defender, he never blinked. By the end of the year, he was as good of a center back we’ve ever had.”

D: James Duckett, Elmore County sophomore

Duckett moved into the starting lineup due to an injury to a defender during Elmore County’s opening tournament. He made an impact immediately with several big plays at the tournament and secured a spot in the starting lineup for a majority of the season. “He wasn’t a starter on the team at the beginning,” ECHS coach John Hilbish said. “When we had an injury at the beginning of the season, he came in and in those first games, it felt like he always had one or two highlight reel defensive plays. That says a lot about him, especially as a first-year player.”

D/M: Brennan Worrell, Wetumpka junior

Worrell may be a natural left back, which he plays for his travel team, but Wetumpka needed him to stay central and Worrell answered that call all season. He stepped in as the holding midfielder and was crucial in both the defense and the attack for the Indians. Worrell finished the season with four goals and four assists in 16 matches. “He was a lifeline for us in the midfield,” Wetumpka coach Desmond Knight said. “We had some guys lacking experience but Brennan was more of that verbal leader that we needed. And with his play on the field, he showed he was one of our most talented players so he could play anywhere.”

M: Fernando Marcos, Tallassee senior

Tallassee struggled to find highlights during its one-win season but Marcos was at the heart of most of the positive moments. He started at left midfield for all 16 matches and finished the season with 17 goals and seven assists. He recorded three hat tricks, including two against Valley and one against Elmore County. His final three-goal performance came in the season’s penultimate match to give Tallassee its only win of the season. “He’d really electrify us when we were down,” Tallassee coach Katie Rigsby said. “He was always going to be the one to step up when we needed it. When he got it in his mind that he was going to score, he would do it.” 

M: Tucker Edwards, Holtville senior

Edwards capped off his high school career with some big production on the offensive end for the Bulldogs. Playing in an attacking midfielder role, Edwards was responsible for half of Holtville’s goals this season, assisting on nine goals while scoring 12 of his own including one hat trick. He finished his career with 30 goals and 21 assists. “He was a threat to score from anywhere inside the 18,” Holtville coach Robby Broom said. “He forced other teams had to try to take that away and helped open up options for everyone else on the team.” 

M: Miles Broom, Holtville junior

After missing time last year due to an injury sustained in a four-wheeler accident, Broom battled back to be ready for the start of the 2019 season. He was a crucial connection between the midfield and the attack, recording 14 assists in 14 games. Broom also scored four goals, including one in a victory at Elmore County to complete the sweep. “For him to come back and work the way they did, all the other guys were really pulling for him,” Holtville coach Robby Broom said. “That really brought us all together and bonded us as a team. He became a complete player for us and he really matured this year.”

M/F: Cristo Rocha, Stanhope Elmore senior

Rocha was moved into a more attacking role for his final season with the Mustangs and the move paid off. Rocha, who played defender in last year’s North-South All-Star match, scored 15 goals and assisted on 20 more to be a key in Stanhope’s attack all season. It was rare for the Mustangs to have a successful attack if Rocha did not control the ball in the buildup. “I really saw some amazing character from him in a lot of games,” SEHS coach Johanna Angelo said. “I would see him trying to play every position and fill every hole. Sometimes it actually hurt us but watching someone put in that much effort every game was pretty amazing.”

F: Ignacio Ruiz, Holtville senior

The Bulldogs found ways to score outside of their top striker but Ruiz was still constantly making an impact in the attack. Whether it was his movement, his passes or the finishing touch, Ruiz was at the front line of a Holtville offense which averaged three goals per game. He finished with 11 goals and five assists, including a hat trick versus Elmore County. Ruiz also scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win on Senior Night. “He’s been around since the seventh grade,” Holtville coach Robby Broom said, “a player with multiple years of experience at the varsity level really helped relax the rest of the guys. If you could get him the pass, you knew we would have a good chance to score.” 

F: Jason Aguilar, Elmore County senior

In his first season as Elmore County’s primary striker, Aguilar provided a big boost to the attack, leading the team in goals and assists. He finished the year with 13 goals and 19 assists. Aguilar’s biggest goal came late in the season with a game-winning free kick in a 4-3 win over Tallassee. Despite being the key in attack, Aguilar could not let go of the midfielder inside him and he continued to make an impact in his own half, tracking back to help on defense. “This was his first time playing forward full time,” ECHS coach John Hilbish said. “The thing that stood out about him was that he never stands there at the 50-yard line even as a forward. He works back on defense and the rest of the kids really respected him for that.” 

Honorable Mention

Wetumpka: Caio Pelogia, jr., M; Emmanuel Castellanos, so., F; Elmore County: Cade Celka, sr., GK; Tallassee: Ruben Castaneda, sr., M; Braedon Felts, sr., D; Stanhope Elmore: Rigan Stewart, sr., D; Kyle McManis, sr., M; Dillon Lewis, sr., D; Holtville: Tucker Jones, sr., D; Luc Cyr, fr., M

Caleb Turrentine is a sports writer for Tallapoosa Publishers Inc.