There are some freshmen who ease their way into a team and learn from some of their older teammates. Then there are the players who learn quickly and make immediate contributions to the club despite their young age.
And then there’s Coosa’s Jorge Lopez.
Lopez shined for the Eagles immediately in his freshman season and was a major part of the team’s run to its first ever state championship appearance.
For his accomplishments, he has been selected as the Rome News-Tribune Boys’ Soccer All-Area Player of the Year.
The freshman forward was a part of a Coosa squad that scored four or more goals in 13 games this season. He led the Eagles with an astonishing 48 goals, twice as much as the next player on the team and any other player in Floyd County.
Lopez played alongside plenty of talent, with seniors like Jose Reyes and Eric Chavez routinely setting him up for goals or scoring them. The Eagles’ loose style on offense wrecked havoc on opponents all season long, especially in the playoffs.
In a 3-1 quarterfinal win against Putnam County, Lopez got the team rolling when he scored on a breakaway only 11 minutes into the match. Then, just before halftime, he spilt through three defenders and scored a goal to put his team up 3-0.
It was something coach Ruben Maldonado had seen all too often.
“That is a freshman with college and MLS potential,” Maldonado said after the game. “I’m telling you, he’s just amazing. And thank goodness he is only a freshman for us. I can just imagine how much he’s going to grow.”
Lopez got the team started again in the semifinal against Thomasville as he broke through the defense on the left side and scored in the ninth minute. That set the tone for the rest of the match as Coosa scored three more times and won 4-0.
There were plenty of other players who shined around the area this season, including Lopez’s teammates. Reyes and Chavez provided senior leadership and helped with Coosa’s flow, and Aaron Camacho assisted the team on offense and defense.
Coosa was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to the talent in the area.
Rome defender Erick Luna played a major part in Rome’s ride to the state quarterfinals this season. The junior was put on the best player for every game the Wolves played and was a major part of Rome’s six shutouts this season. He also contributed on offense, scoring four goals and picking up 12 assists.
Sophomore Eduardo Zavala made a mark at striker for the Wolves as the team’s leading scorer with 21 goals. He was second on the team with 10 assists and a team captain. Cooper Williams was a defensive force for Rome at sweeper, keeping plenty of the top players in Region 7-5A off their guard.
Pepperell forward Ramiro Alanis was another star player, scoring 23 goals and nine assists for the Dragons. The senior served as the main offensive weapon for a team that won its first ever playoff match this season and reached the state quarterfinals.
In goal, Model’s Leonel Bello completed his career with a record-breaking season of 154 saves in 20 games, setting a new Model single season and career saves record (371). He posted eight shutouts this season.
2017 RN-T ALL-AREA SOCCER TEAMS
Coach of the Year
Ruben Maldonado, Coosa
Ramiro Alanis Pepperell
Henderson Ambrocio Trion
Leonel Bello Model
Aaron Camacho Coosa
Eric Chavez Coosa
*Jorge Lopez Coosa
Erick Luna Rome
Jack Pearson Darlington
Jose Reyes Coosa
Justin Smith Pepperell
Cooper Williams Rome
Eduardo Zavala Rome
*Player of the Year
Logan Burdette Model
Ryan Chambers Rome
Kamen Harris Armuchee
Ryan Hurst Pepperell
Tee Jarrard Model
Orlando Lopez Coosa
Rodrigo Mandujano Pepperell
Angel Morrente Rome
Matt Syverson Model
Noah Woford Darlington
ARMUCHEE: Blake Abney, Christopher Castro, Thomas Fitzpatrick. MODEL: Kirk McStotts, Alex Nelson, Jason Ortega, Christian Richardson. PEPPERELL: Lane Koch, Moises Ramirez, Pablo Ramirez, Ivan Sandoval. ROME: Cade Graham, Dio Perez, Mutsa Nyamuranga, Sergio Vazquez. TRION: Fernando Andres, Brandon Figuerroa, Ronaldo Gonzales, Elder Morales, Jackson Walters.