The Daily Home player of the year is Jon McEwan, a senior left wing for Sylacauga. He led the team in goals with 12 and also had six assists.
“Jon’s just one of those kinds of players that if you don’t where he’s at on the field, he can hurt you at any time,” Sylacauga head coach Matt Zedaker said. “The Lord blessed him with a tremendous amount of speed. He runs about a 4.4 40, he’s very good with both sides of his feet, he can play multiple positions, but we attacked with him on both outside left and right wings. If we had a weaker defender on the other team, we would put him on that side and it allowed him to get some easy opportunities by using his feet to beat them, which allowed a lot of our goals for our guys. He did a good job of distributing the ball. He was just an all-around great player for me; wish I had him two more years. He’s a top-notch kid; one of the top kids academically in his class. He comes from a really good family. He was a huge asset; he was definitely one of our MVPs this year.”
According to Zedaker, McEwan only began playing for Sylacauga last season despite playing soccer his entire life. Zedaker said McEwan put in a tremendous amount of hard work during the offseason and set goals that helped push him to put up strong numbers this season.
Sylacauga’s leading scorer the past two seasons, Adolfo Gamino, missed the first eight weeks of the season with a stressed pelvic bone, forcing McEwan into the role as primary scorer.
“He held our offense together until we got our scorer back in Adolfo [Gamino]. [Jon] kind of helped us through offensively. I wish him the best. I think he had an outstanding senior year. I hate that he didn’t get to go to the playoffs, but he definitely gave us a chance.”
Other Sylacauga players for the team are: Adolfo Gamino, the team’s striker in his senior season, who, despite missing the first eight weeks of the season, still managed to finish as the team’s second-leading scorer with 11 goals and had four assists; Matthew Griffitt, a junior midfielder who finished with eleven goals and one assist; Logan Steers, a senior defender; Jackson Laye, a junior midfielder selected to AHSAA’s North-South game who also played striker, wing and defender and finished with five goals and 15 assists; and Elijah Sanders, a senior goalkeeper who had 101 saves in 22 games, an average of 4.5 saves per game.
Steers, a three-year starter, was the lone senior on defense.
“He was my shutdown guy,” Zedaker said. “Obviously, he took the best player on every team and defended him. He’s just a real, real good player.”
While Sanders had a stellar season, his senior year may prove to be even better.
“He was just a leader on the field, was really the general from behind, and was everybody’s eyes,” Zedaker said. “He just had an outstanding year, kept us in a lot of games. He held Briarwood to 1-0 and Briarwood won the state championship. He had several games that way. I think he’s one of the best-kept secrets in the state. I think he’ll have several looks next year and possibly play at the next level in college. I’m looking for him to have a big senior year.”
While this was Childersburg’s first year as a program, the team managed to qualify for the playoffs. The team was eliminated from the playoffs in a 4-0 loss to Oneonta. Head coach Michael Duff hopes the team can make the playoffs again next season and make it past the first round.
“I had high expectations when I first came to Childersburg,” Duff said. “I wanted to come in and not only open the program, but also start building a championship-caliber team. I knew we wouldn’t win the championship with it being the first year of the program and playing at a 4A level, but I really wanted to push the guys to do their best and try to teach most of them who haven’t played soccer before the fundamentals. When we come in next year, I have very high expectations for some of those kids because now they’ve got a year under their belts at the high school level. Going into our second season, I expect so much more. I don’t expect to go and exit out of the first round again next year. We want to build on that and move on. Hopefully, one day maybe we’ll see the state championship.”
Childersburg’s all-area selections include: Dailon Davis, a 5-8, 150 lb. sophomore forward who finished his first-ever season of soccer with eight goals; Joseph Garrett, a 5-11, 160 lb. sophomore defender who also played forward and earned team MVP and defensive MVP honors in his first-ever season, in addition to being a team captain and scoring three goals on the season; Christian Garrett, a 5-10, 175 lb. senior midfielder and a team captain; Eli Clarke, a 5-10, 160 lb. sophomore defender who scored three goals; and Noah Smith, a 6-3, 200 lb. sophomore goalkeeper.
Duff noted that while Clarke is a natural midfielder, he played defender for the better interest of the team.
Senior Christian Garrett in particular showed great leadership on a youthful team.
“Christian played soccer his whole life but due to CHS not getting a team until his senior season, Christian had only one year of high school soccer experience,” Duff said. “A real leader, Garrett is a tireless runner and has superb vision. Garrett showed plenty of leadership on and off the field for the 2013 season. Ball control was one of his major strengths during the game, along with his ability to distribute the ball to his teammates.”
Pell City earned three nominations, including: junior attacking midfielder Ryan Curran, who was selected for the AHSAA North-South game; Taylor Brady, a forward who led the team in scoring with 14 goals and had 10 assists; and Alan Zubia, a sophomore forward.
Talladega also had three selections, including: striker Jack Bailey; midfielder Dakota Moffa; and midfielder Mason McKibbon.
Rounding out the team is Coosa Valley Academy’s MVP on an AISA championship team, Zachary Q. Sharp.
“I think he’s probably the top player in the AISA, one of the top players in the state,” CVA head coach David Sharp said. “He’s played all of his life. He qualified for the U.S. regional team.”