Oak Mountain’s Aidan Riley wins Shelby County Player of the Year after phenomenal season

Published 5:53 pm Monday, June 10, 2024

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By ANDREW SIMONSON | Sports Editor

Another incredible year for Shelby County boys soccer meant another crowded field of individuals for consideration for county Player of the Year.

In the end, to find the answer, you just had to look for blonde streak running up and down the wing for Oak Mountain every single match: Aidan Riley, the junior Eagles winger who is 2024’s Shelby County Player of the Year.

Riley had already made his name as one of Oak Mountain’s most reliable attacking threats after he earned five goals and nine assists in 2023 to earn First Team honors for Class 7A All-State and All-County as well.

However, this year proved to be his breakout year as those contributed chances started turning into more goals and assists and led the Eagles to new heights.

He scored five times as many goals in 2024 as he did in 2023, going from five goals to 25 goals, the second-most on his team and fourth-most in the county, helping to fill the scoring gap left by reigning Shelby County Player of the Year Om Shrestha’s move to the backline.

However, while his finishing power saw the biggest leap from season to season, his goal total wasn’t the only way he impacted the game in 2024.

Riley continued to be a force in the buildup to goals, whether it was in runs after receiving the ball, crosses into the box off the wing to Nate Joiner, Sam Collins or one of Oak Mountain’s other talented finishers or a combination of both.

He also played a key role in set pieces as the designated corner kick taker, sending in balls that often landed in threatening positions and contributed to chances.

As a result of all of that, Riley’s assist total ended up roughly on par with last year’s, except this time he broke the double-digit mark that eluded him in 2023 as he had 10 assists compared to last season’s nine.

Those improvements made Oak Mountain just that much more dangerous in 2024 and pushed them over the hump to a historic level of success.

The Eagles finished the 2024 season with a 29-0-1 record, Class 7A state championship, area championship and No. 3 ranking in the nation by MaxPreps, and in many of those 30 results, Riley was right there contributing in big ways.

Riley scored a goal in each of Oak Mountain’s four playoff games against Hoover, Chelsea, Huntsville and Auburn, proving his finishing power could come through in high-pressure situations against three of the top seven teams in the final Class 7A coaches poll.

Those clutch moments cemented Riley’s status as one of the top players in the state, as reflected by his postseason awards to this point: finalist for Alabama Gatorade Player of the Year, a Super All-State First Team spot, Class 7A All-State First Team place and All-Metro First Team selection.

As mentioned up front, this was a tough field to choose from as multiple players could have claimed the Player of the Year award.

Chelsea’s Luke Miller continued his ascension as one of the state’s best two-way defenders by setting single-season school records on defense that he may wind up breaking in his final two seasons and scoring 11 goals with nine assists on offense to power the Hornets’ ascent to the top ranks of Class 7A.

Another star for the Hornets, keeper Brock Marlow, also staked his claim as one of the top players in the county with his performance in goal, making tough saves look easy and directing traffic from the box to help set his teammates up for success in the opposite box.

Golden Boot winner Aiden Gamble continued his torrid scoring pace for Westminster at Oak Mountain as his 35 goals and 14 assists helped power the Knights to another spot in the Class 1A-3A state title game.

While these players and more could easily have earned this honor, Riley’s big year in all facets of the offense made him an absolutely essential part of Oak Mountain’s run at history and secured him Shelby County Player of the Year honors.