In his first year at the helm last season, Rome boys’ soccer coach Luis Goya led his team to the Class 5A Elite Eight as a No. 4 seed.
This year, the coach has his eyes set on a Region 7-5A title after coming up just short in the 2019 season.
“We are shooting for the sky,” Goya said. “We are a team that trains hard and is prepared for any contender. After last year’s great season, it proved to us who we are and showed us our real potential.”
The Wolves were edged by Kell 2-1 during the regular season, ending their shot at a Region 7-5A championship and giving the Wolves the No. 4 seed in the state playoffs.
Rome has reason to be optimistic after last year’s postseason push that saw them upset two higher-seeded teams in the Class 5A state playoffs before coming up short to Whitewater 3-2.
Here’s a closer look at area teams for this season:
Head coach: Luis Vasquez
Key returning players: Kody Manikas, Sr.; Simon Wilson, Sr.
Outlook for this season: Under first-year head coach Luis Vasquez, the Indians are looking to build on a successful season last year that saw them reach the second round of the Class AA state playoffs. Kody Manikas and Simon Wilson return for their senior seasons after the fourth-seeded Indians upset Hapeville in the opening round of the playoffs.
Head coach: Phil Wood
Key returning players: Orlando Lopez, Sr.; Jorge Lopez, Sr.; Miques Perez, Jr.;
Outlook for this season: The Eagles return their top offensive and defensive players for the 2020 season as they try to bounce back after being upset in the second round of the Class AA state playoffs. Leading scorer Jorge Lopez and top defender Orlando Lopez look to offer experience to a large group of freshmen and sophomores who first-year coach Phil Wood hopes will come into their own quickly.
Head coach: Kurt Luitwieler
Key returning players: Brinson Sumner, Jr.; Michael Ugbe, Sr.; Eli Baldwin, Jr.; Ricci Frisiani, Jr.; Francisco Yanes Gorbea, Sr.
Outlook for this season: After missing the playoffs last season, Darlington coach Kurt Luitwieler has hopes of winning the region against tough opponents like Mt. Paran and North Cobb Christian. Luitwieler expects the Tigers to have a higher-scoring offense with some key players returning and the addition of freshman Daniel Donadio, who adds some needed speed to the Tigers’ roster.
Model Blue Devils
Head coach: Donnie Mendence
Key returning players: Ryan Patterson, Sr.; Matthew Spears, Jr.; Edgar Reyes, Jr.; Landon Hays, Sr.; David Veillon, Sr.
Outlook for this season: With the loss of two of their top defensive players, the Blue Devils are searching for a way to keep teams out of the net. With a lot of depth on their roster, the Blue Devils have options on both sides of the ball. With Ryan Patterson, Landon Hays and David Veillon back in the lineup, longtime coach Donnie Mendence hopes to make a return to the Class AA playoffs after missing out on the postseason last year.
Head coach: Michael Watson
Key returning players: Ryan Hurst, Sr.; Edgar Cornejo, Sr.
Outlook for this season: First-year coach Michael Watson has an all-senior defensive backfield at his disposal as the Dragons get ready for another tough season in Region 7-AA. Seniors Ryan Hurst and Edgar Cornejo return to lead a group of new freshmen and players coming in from junior varsity in hopes of building some team chemistry as the season progresses.
Head coach: Luis Goya
Key returning players: Gabriel Pineda, Sr.; Henry Ramirez, Sr.; Oscar Segura, Sr.; Ernesto Loza, Sr.; Luis Guzman, Sr.; Lucciano Hasko, Sr.; Isaac Vardy, So.; Junior Morente, So.; Ivan Vazquez, So.; Gonzalo Lemus, So.; Ivan Orellana, Jr.
Outlook for this season: The Wolves return a plethora of seniors this year with standouts like Gabriel Pineda, Henry Ramirez and Oscar Segura, but also have some new players joining the ranks in freshmen Jason Cux and Alex Perez and junior Jefferson Merida, who will be on the field in his first varsity action. With so many players returning, the Wolves again look to make a run in the Class 5A state playoffs.