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Regular-season champion Southern Nash is joined by third-place Hunt High and fourth-place Franklinton in claiming the 2017 honored individuals in 3-A Big East Conference boys soccer.
Senior goalkeeper Brannon Price of Southern Nash was proclaimed defensive player of the year, while his head coach, Carlos Barron, was hailed as coach of the year.
The accolade for offensive player of the year was shared by Hunt senior Mark Bogle and Richard Lopez-Hernandez of league newcomer Franklinton.
Price, in just his second season in goal, posted five shutouts, averaged seven saves per match and yielded less than 1.5 goals per match as the Firebirds compiled a 12-8-2 record, won the regular season and lost in the conference tournament final to Fike.
Barron, in just his second season as head coach, explained his primary role in Southern Nash’s success was to provide leadership and guidance.
The speedy Bogle emerged Hunt’s top scorer and one of the league’s most prolific scorers with 24 goals, trailing only Lopez-Hernandez’s 27 goals, to go with eight assists. Bogle, a native of Jamaica, netted at least one goal against every conference foe.
Lopez-Hernandez, who had a league-best 29 assists, triggered Franklinton’s Red Rams, who emerged late-season spoilers in the conference race.
Southern Nash also paced the all-conference lineup with six selections, followed by second-place Fike with five, Hunt with four, Franklinton with three, and Rocky Mount and Northern Nash with two each.
Joining Price as Southern Nash selections were Carlos Garcia, Justin Vazquez, Eric Mendoza, David Vazquez and Ezekiel Gonzalez.
Fike landed Matt Cotton, Myles Cyrus, goalkeeper Nolan Wiggs, Kevin Mendoza and Renaldo Romero.
Joining Bogle from Hunt were goalkeeper Brendan Nance, Jose Chavez and Ethan Fatzaun.
Completing the all-league lineup are Lopez-Hernandez, Hayes Tharrington and Navid Qazizada of Franklinton; Demetrius Morton and Gustavo Velasquez of Rocky Mount; and Alex Phillips and Jacob Michaels of Northern Nash.
Accorded honorable mention were Shawn Trice of Southern Nash, Jaylen Guillen of Fike, Kevin Moreno of Hunt, Hayden Johnson of Franklinton, Alex Foote of Rocky Mount and Evan Sanford of Northern Nash.
Southern Nash’s Price not only earned all-conference recognition for the first time but emerged defensive player of the year in his second season after shifting from striker to keeper.
“This is an award I never expected to get,” Price contended. “The feeling is hard to describe because it feels that good. It’s a great honor. There was a lot of competition and I was just doing my job.”
The 5-foot-10, 150-pound price endorsed the switch to keeper because “I like feeling that I’m the last resort, and that I have everyone’s back and that they can trust me.”
The 17-year-old, who has committed to North Carolina Wesleyan, considered the season’s highlight as a 1-0 victory at Fike.
“I had a great senior year,” Price, a four-year varsity performer said. “It was a great year for me, the team and everything.”
He credited his senior-year improvement to “the faith the team had in me. I wanted to prove them right and I tried my hardest the entire 80 minutes.”
Of Price, Barron commented: “He definitely came through for us many times. He had an awesome game at Fike.”
Barron mentioned the unique situation of an abundance of Firebirds’ goalies, and reasoned Price surfaced because “of his leadership and awareness. He was proactive, talked constantly, kept himself involved and kept the team in the game.”
Southern Nash, Fike, Hunt and Franklinton all lost in the opening round of the North Carolina High School Athletic Association 3-A playoffs, but Bogle indicated the conference offensive honor eased personal disappointment.
“I’m ecstatic!” he remarked. “This was something I was working toward. This is the best way I could imagine for my season to end. This is an amazing way to end my senior year.”
Bogle, said Hunt head coach Eric Nguyen, was unquestionably the fastest player on the Warriors squad and, added Nguyen: “He was probably the quickest player in the conference.”
“I guess (the speed) is in my Jamaican genes,” Bogle, a four-year varsity performer, noted with a chuckle.
Bogle, who has been playing soccer for 11 years, admitted Hunt did not achieve the result it wanted but felt the players played for each other and found the season filled with fun times.
“I was pleased with that,” the 5-4, 135-pound 17-year-old said. “I wanted to be one of the top scorers in the conference and had a great year. It’s been an amazing four years.”
Nguyen was firm in his opinion that Bogle, who hopes to continue his career at Charlotte, should have landed the offensive honor outright.
“He had just a tireless work rate,” Nguyen explained. “One-on-one, he won most of his battles. He was very determined to take the ball to goal.”
HOW ABOUT THAT!
Of the coach-of-the-year recognition, Barron responded: “How about that!”
“I definitely put in the hours doing what I want to do, and to be appreciated for that is awesome. And we did win the regular season.
“I just wanted to make sure the players took ownership of the team and that it was not about one person but the team. If we could do that, we could still rise to the top.
“It is a little bittersweet (because of falling in the tournament final and first round of playoffs), but I do feel good that we were able to put out a championship team at Southern Nash again. I hope it continues to happen. The future is bright.”