This past high school soccer season saw two players outscore most players in the area, but their willingness to do what was needed to help out their teams made them valuable assets.
Those efforts, and a total of 90 goals between them, earned Coosa’s Jorge Lopez and Model’s Lauren Akemon the title of Rome News-Tribune Boys’ and Girls’ Player of the Year.
Akemon proved herself a player that could be successful in whichever position she played, and Model girls’ head coach Kacie Crowder knew she could count on her wherever she was needed.
“She brings everything she can,” Crowder said. “I can ask her to go in as a forward and score goals and make plays happen, or I can ask her to be a defender and cut off the offense if we’re struggling. She’ll take down offensive players and make scoring opportunities.”
Akemon scored 50 goals this past season and had 34 assists proving herself to be a versatile competitor. The sophomore striker helped the Lady Blue Devils top Region 7-AA again and reach a historic point in their season as the team advanced to the semifinals of the state playoffs for the first time in school history. The team won 16 straight games before a 2-1 loss to Vidalia in the Class AA Final Four.
“It’s a lot of pressure,” Akemon said. “But I can do what she needs me to do, and if it helps my team it’s a good feeling to be counted on like that.”
Lopez, a junior forward, was asked by Coosa boys’ head coach Ricky Medlock before the season started to play a more defensive role for the Eagles, and the decision paid off well for the Eagles.
“We knew people would focus on him,” Medlock said. “He controlled the game. He’s one of the best players I’ve ever coached. No one works harder than that kid.”
Lopez was unsure about how his season would go when Medlock asked him to change positions, but once he became accustomed to the change, everything fell into place.
Still, Lopez racked up 40 goals and 16 assists during the season and has been looked at by several colleges including Florida International, Kentucky and Miami. He also competed in this year’s DiVarsity.com Georgia High School Boys’ All-Star Soccer Game and the College Showcase All-Star Game.
“This year was probably my best year in high school,” he said. “I was more involved with the team. I always try to improve myself every day. We didn’t get to where we wanted to go but there’s always next year.”
Lopez helped carry the Region 7-AA champion Eagles to the Sweet 16, where they fell 2-1 to a tough Putnam County squad. The Eagles was consistently ranked the top Class AA boys team in the state by Eurosportscoreboard.com and made life difficult for their opponents.
Joining Lopez on the RN-T Boys All-Area first team are Rome High’s Eduardo Zavala and Rahdriq Turner, who were part of the Wolves’ huge postseason push.
Zavala, a senior forward, led Rome with 18 goals as the Wolves advanced to the Class 5A state playoffs as Region 7-5A’s No. 4 seed and then upset two higher-seeded teams to reach the Elite Eight before being eliminated. Turner, also a senior forward, added 12 goals on the season.
Joining Akemon on the RN-T Girls All-Area first team are Pepperell’s Ansley Davenport and Rome High’s Mae Pierce.
Davenport, a junior forward, racked up 23 goals and seven assists for the Lady Dragons, who reached the second round of the Class AA state playoffs. It was the heroics of Davenport that got the Lady Dragons into the Sweet 16 when she scored the game-winning goal against KIPP Academy in the final minute of their first-round contest.
Pierce, a sophomore forward, led the Lady Wolves in scoring with 33 goals and added seven assists. She scored hat tricks in eight games as she helped the Lady Wolves reach the state playoffs as the No. 2 seed out of Region 7-5A.