Rutherford County: Soccer powerhouse?
In case you haven't heard, Rutherford County is home to two conference champions this fall. With wins last Wednesday night, Thomas Jefferson and Chase soccer clinched the Southern Piedmont and South Mountain Athletic conferences, respectively.
While the county, myself included, was focused so much on Friday nights and how our American football teams were doing, we missed some of the best soccer in the state.
Thomas Jefferson head coach Brian Espinoza is continuing to build a soccer power down in Avondale with players like Alain Colnot, Nathan Mackey, Joseph Pate and Mathias Talbert.
Colnot, the reigning Rutherford County Player of the Year, is following his stellar junior season with a senior season that includes 16 goals and nine assists. Mackey leads the team with 14 assists while adding six goals.
Talbert, a junior, looks to be in line as the next great Gryphons senior after recording 10 goals and five assists during the regular season.
And let's not forget about senior goalie Stephen Maimone keeping the ball out of the Thomas Jefferson (15-1-1, 9-1 SPC) net.
Just up the road in Henrietta, Chase head soccer coach Greg Deshommes and his Trojans (15-2-1, 15-1 SMAC) claimed the program's firs conference championship in just it sixth year.
The Trojans are led by freshmen scoring machines Nube Jimenez and Preston Walker while sophomore midfielder Jose Vasquez leads the conference in assists with 14.
However, lost in the shuffle is the Trojan defense that's allowed only eight goals the entire season led by senior goalkeeper and team captain Ansoni Jimenez.
And let's recognize that the only conference foe to defeat the Trojans were the Hilltoppers of R-S Central.
The Hilltoppers (12-5, 11-5 SMAC) finished third in the conference behind Chase and Shelby and look to be in play for a playoff bid under first-year head coach Ruffin Tanner.
Look for the Hilltoppers to reestablish themselves as a power in the Western part of the state in the coming years.
With all of that in mind, it's looking like the balance of fall sports power in Rutherford County in swinging towards soccer.
Since 2004, East Rutherford, Chase, R-S Central and Thomas Jefferson have just six combined winning football seasons. The only conference championship in the past decade belongs to the 2005 Cavaliers that went 12-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play.
Granted that could change this year as TJCA sits at 6-3, Chase at 5-4 and R-S Central at 4-4, however, it doesn't appear as if any conference titles or state championships are in the cards.
With the recent success in soccer and the relative irrelevance of Rutherford County football, the county might want to hang its autumn hat on the fútbol players instead of the boys on the gridiron.
So keep an eye on the soccer playoff pairings set to be released on Monday and get out and see the soccer talent that Rutherford County is blessed with. We might be witnessing the start of something special.
Winning sparks interest, interest sparks participation, participation sparks passion and passion sparks more success.