2016 All-County boys soccer
By BAKER ELLIS / Sports Editor
Over the last two years, soccer has established itself as Shelby County’s most dominant sport. There have been more soccer state championships (five) won in the county than there have been in football, basketball, baseball, softball and track and field combined over the last two years. The amount of quality soccer programs within the county’s parameters is nothing short of astounding, and two of the four boys state champions came from Shelby County this year in Oak Mountain and Helena. Now that the soccer season is over, it is time to look back on some of the top players that filled the rosters of those talented teams, before closing the book entirely on the spring. So, with that said, here are the 2016 All-County boys soccer teams.
Forward: Josh Brower, Briarwood, senior. In 2015, the Lions scored 32 goals over the course of the entire season. In the offseason Shawn Brower came to Briarwood to be the school’s new principal as well as the new boys’ soccer coach, and brought with him his talented, goal-scoring son, Josh. Josh Brower, in his lone season as a Lion, scored 34 goals, more than the Lions’ managed as a team the year before, and also had 20 assists for a total of 88 points. No one in the county found the back of net more often than Brower, and his 20 assists were second-most in the county as well. A big, powerful target up front, Brower was a threat to score from anywhere inside of 35 yards, as he had one of the biggest and most accurate legs across the state. Brower, a First Team All-Metro selection, led the Lions to a 16-4-3 record, and Briarwood made an appearance in the 6A quarterfinals as well. He will play his college soccer at Covenant College in Chattanooga, Tenn. next year.
Forward: Jeremy Hughes, Helena, senior. Hughes was one of the leaders of a Helena team that had a whopping 16 seniors on the roster in 2016. The Huskies, who won the 4A-5A title this year after trouncing Randolph 4-0 in the finals, finished the season with an 18-7-2 record, and finished the year as the No. 8 team in the state, regardless of classification. One of the primary reasons for Helena’s success was the fact its offense averaged 4.4 goals per game over the course of the season, and one of the primary reasons for that was Hughes. Hughes scored 26 goals in his senior season, third-most in the county, and finished the year with 54 total points. He was also named to the All-Lakeshore Tournament team as well as being one of Helena’s captains.
Forward: Austin Pack, Indian Springs, senior. Pack has been a mainstay on Indian Springs’ team for years now. The shifty, talented senior was one of the main reasons Springs stayed at the top of the 1A-3A rankings for most of the season, as his 27 goals and 13 assists kept the Springs offense humming nicely during the regular season. A heady player, Pack rarely made a mistake with the ball at his foot, and had a knack for finding teammates in space during his career with the small soccer juggernaut that is Indian Springs. Pack’s 67 total points were also second-most in the county, and he will play his college soccer at Wheaton College in Illinois next year.
Forward: Diego Gutierrez, Thompson, senior. Gutierrez was the main threat for this Warriors’ team that won more games than any Thompson team since 2012. Gutierrez scored 19 goals and registered another eight assists, giving him 46 points for the season. Thompson is no doubt a victim of geography, in the same area as Oak Mountain and Hoover, but the Warriors pushed the Bucs to penalty kicks once, and the second time Thompson met Oak Mountain the game was tight until the end. A large reason for that was the offensive spark given by Gutierrez, who was known for having a nose for the net, which showed in his final season. He was also a First Team All-Metro selection.
Midfield: Hunter Holstad, Oak Mountain, senior. The best player on the best team in the country. Holstad has, for quite a while, been one of the main cogs in the Oak Mountain wheel, and is a large reason for the Eagles’ sustained success. This season he helped turn the Eagles into one of the most dominant teams not just in Alabama, but across the United States as well. Holstad’s numbers this year were impressive, not flashy, as he scored 18 goals and had 16 assists, but his impact to this Oak Mountain team went so much deeper than his stats. Long, fast, and athletic, Holstad is a natural outside back who played in the middle of the field and in the attack to help guide Oak Mountain’s young attacking front. A natural leader, Holstad scored 11 game-winners this year, and he was the runner-up for the Gatorade Player of the Year in the state. Holstad will play his college soccer at the Naval Academy, and he is the 2016 Player of the Year in the county as well.
Midfield: Yunior Tejada, Pelham, junior. Tejada was a First-Team All-Metro selection and scored 12 goals while assisting on another 11 for the Panthers, both team-highs, as Pelham made its second-straight trip to the 6A Final Four. Tejada was one of the bigger bodies on a relatively small Pelham roster, and was routinely required to plug the middle of the field to stop opposing counterattacks. He had one of the biggest feet on the team, capable of putting shots on target from outside of 30 yards, and was named the team MVP. An accurate, intelligent passer who came up big for the Panthers time and again, Tejada will be back next year as a senior as the Panthers will look to continue the momentum of the last two years.
Midfield: Landon Gaskins, Helena, junior. Another big piece of Helena’s state championship team, the junior Gaskins scored 10 goals and assisted on 18 more. He has been selected to participate in the 2016 North-South All-Star game, and was also named MVP of the Lakeshore tournament this season as well. Gaskins will be one of the integral pieces left next season when Helena moves up to 6A, and the mass exodus of Helena’s gigantic 16-person senior class has moved on.
Midfield: Jack Wilson, the Westminster School at Oak Mountain, junior. The Knights’ best midfielder and one of the reasons Westminster was able to upset Indian Springs in the 1A-3A Elite Eight to punch its second-straight ticket to the 1A-3A Final Four. Wilson finished the year with 10 goals and five assists, but did much more than his stats suggest in order to help this team. Scored the Knights only goal in regulation in the Final Four game against Bayside, and will take part in the North-South All-Star game this summer as well.
Defender: Christian Thomason, Oak Mountain, senior. One part of the two-headed Thomason monster that kept the back line clean for most of the season for the Eagles. Oak Mountain finished the year as the top team in the country according to USA Today, and the strongest unit of Oak Mountain’s team was its defense. Christian and his twin brother Chandler played the two central defender positions for the Eagles, and smothered opponents all season. Christian Thomason also added five goals and four assists this year, and was a First-Team All-Metro selection.
Defender: Chandler Thomason, Oak Mountain, senior. The other Thomason twin in large part responsible for the Eagles’ incredible defensive year. Chandler Thomason scored once and had four assists in his senior campaign, and was one of the three captains of this Oak Mountain team, along with his brother and Holstad. The two Thomasons have been playing together their entire lives, and their cohesion on the field had as much to do with their success as did their talent. Both brothers will play their college soccer at Auburn University at Montgomery.
Defender: Nigel Hillard, Pelham, sophomore. The small, speedy Hillard was Pelham’s best defender this season, and scored five goals and accumulated four assists as an added bonus. Hillard was named a Second Team All-Metro selection this year, and his decision-making on the back line is routinely superb.
Defender: Yelstin Canales, Helena, senior. One of the other captains for this state champion Helena team alongside Hughes, Canales scored 12 goals and assisted on another from the back line, and led the Husky defense that gave up just one goal per game on the year.
Goalkeeper: TIE. Seth Torman, Pelham, junior; Ryan Dearman, Oak Mountain, senior. This might have been the tightest single-position decision across any sport this school year. There are truthfully four of the most talented keepers in the state in the county in Torman, Dearman, Phildon Dublin from Helena and Markus Frederick from Chelsea. The First-Team slot this year turned into a contest mainly between Torman and Dearman, however, and at the end of the day the two had simply tremendous seasons and both deserve recognition here. Torman finished the year with 111 saves and a whopping nine penalty kick stops as well, which is unheard of, while Dearman posted 16 shutouts and only allowed five goals all year. Potentially the two top keepers in Alabama this year, both deserve recognition here.
Forward: Kennedy Davis, Oak Mountain, junior. Scored 10 goals and had four assists in his junior campaign. Incredibly quick and talented, was named First Team All-Metro and is a verbal commit to play college soccer at Dartmouth.
Forward: Logan Frost, Briarwood, freshman. Scored 23 goals and had 18 assists in his first year with the Lions. Incredibly talented for his age, complemented Brower incredibly well up top all season.
Forward: Cameron Sumpter, Spain Park, sophomore. Spain Park’s leading goal-scorer with 11 goals, also had three assists. Was named a Second-Team All-Metro selection as well.
Forward: Jared Keeler, the Westminster School at Oak Mountain, senior. Led the Knights with 17 goals and 12 assists, good for 46 total points.
Midfield: Liam Condone, Spain Park, junior. Scored four goals and had three assists, selected to play in the North-South All-Star game this summer and was a First Team All-Metro selection.
Midfield: Kenny Rodriguez, Thompson, sophomore. Finished the year with 16 goals and seven assists, was an All-Metro Honorable Mention selection and is one of the more elusive midfielders in the county.
Midfield: Vince Narvaez, Helena, freshman. His 22 assists were the most in the county, and also scored 10 times as well. One of the more talented freshman this year in the state, and will play a huge role for Helena moving forward.
Midfield: Jose Jimenez, Pelham, junior. Potentially Pelham’s most skilled overall player, Jimenez spent a large portion of the 2016 season sidelined with injuries. Even so, the junior scored nine goals and had eight assists in a limited capacity.
Defender: Parker Bryant, Indian Springs, senior. One of two captains for Springs this season, played both on the back line and in the midfield this season and finished the year with 14 goals and 14 assists, good for 42 points.
Defender: Josh Lipperd, the Westminster School at Oak Mountain, junior. Scored seven times and assisted on six goals and helped lead the Knights back to the 1A-3A Final Four for the second year in a row. Leader of the defense.
Defender: Rakim Ali, Indian Springs, senior. Ali is a natural athlete, and self-admittedly has no true position, although he spent his senior year at Springs cleaning up the middle of the field. Scored seven goals and had 10 assists this season, and will play his college soccer at the University of West Alabama.
Defender: Parker Sturm, Spain Park, senior. One of the top defenders for a Spain Park team that won 13 games and finished the season as the No. 5 team in 7A. Team captain, also scored three times, and will play his college soccer at Birmingham-Southern.
Keeper: TIE. Markus Frederick, Chelsea, senior; Phildon Dublin, Helena, senior. Frederick leaves Chelsea as the schools’ all-time leader in saves and has been a three-time All-Metro selection as well. Dublin finished the year with 97 saves, and was the 2015 All-Star game MVP.
Michael Milliron, Calera. Trevor Thames, Briarwood. Adrian Castro, Spain Park. Chad Jeter, Oak Mountain. Gavin Owens, Thompson. Sean Park, Indian Springs. Evan Boykin, Spain Park. Nick Craddock, Chelsea. Irvin Rodriguez, Pelham. Alex Gamble, Thompson. Zach Ford, Calera. Adrian Arceo, Pelham. Connor Greene, Chelsea. Cesar Rivas, Thompson. Eduardo Medina, Spain Park. Kyle Blair, Briarwood. Dico Bradley, Spain Park.