11/23/05 — Soccer players of the year

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Soccer players of the year

By Gabe Whisnant
Published in Sports on November 23, 2005 2:01 PM

Charles B. Aycock junior forward Garrett Davis didn’t get a chance to see freshman Alex Rodriguez during preseason soccer practices this summer. Davis was busy hurling fastballs for the Wayne County Post 11 American Legion team.

Still, he heard plenty of chatter about the skills of the incoming freshman. On the first day of practice, Davis quickly realized the rumors were true — Rodriguez, indeed, could play.

“You could just tell right away he would be a big part of the team,” Davis said.

Garrett Davis and Alex Rodriguez

News-Argus/Mitch Loeber

Garrett Davis and Alex Rodriguez

The Golden Falcons sputtered out of the gate, falling to 2-4 in non-conference play with two losses to Clayton and one each to North Lenoir and Wilson Fike, before starting Class 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference play.

From there, the momentum started to build.

Aycock won its first five conference games, sweeping through the ECC during the first half, on its way to winning 11-of-13 games to close the season. Along the way, the Falcons won their first-ever ECC regular-season title with two dramatic wins over archrival Eastern Wayne, before capturing the inaugural conference tournament with victories over Wilson Beddingfield and Wilson Hunt.

By the end of the regular season and ECC tourney, Davis had recorded 25 goals and 16 assists, while Rodriguez posted 22 goals and 17 assists.

Sure, Aycock has had prolific goal scorers in recent years, namely Ryan Grubb and Matthew Waddell. But the balanced combination of Davis and Rodriguez, mixed with a constantly-improving defense and midfield, helped give the Falcon program something unprecedented — a first-round bye in the N.C. High School Athletic Association playoffs.

For all their accomplishments and the ability to boost Aycock to uncharted territory, Davis and Rodriguez are the Co-News-Argus Boys Soccer Players of the Year.

“They complemented each other if you look at the numbers. They had a great feel for where each other was,” Aycock coach Kevin Adkins said. “It just took four or five games to get organized up front.”

Either Davis or Rodriguez, and many times both, seemed to especially come through in the clutch.

Trailing Eastern Wayne by one in the waning seconds late in the regular season, Davis rifled a long throw-in from the left sideline that eventually resulted in an Eastern Wayne handball in the box. Rodriguez not only stepped up to knock home the penalty kick to send it into overtime, but he also booted in a long shot during the second overtime half for the game-winner.

During the ECC tournament championship against Hunt, Rodriguez lofted a perfect corner kick into the middle of the box as Davis was in position to head home the lone goal of the match as Aycock triumphed 1-0.

Davis added two more assists on long throws in the first half in the second-round of the playoffs against Jacksonville, the eventual state champion, before the Cardinals claimed a 3-2 win in Pikeville to end the Falcons’ most prosperous soccer season in school history.

“Davis is just an all-around athlete with the strong ability to hold the ball and play the ball against defenders. He has fantastic attacking ability with the long throw ... a dangerous player,” Adkins said. “He’s a coachable young athlete that listens and applies what you tell him to his playing ability.

“Alex was a big surprise with his ability to control the ball and move the ball. He will probably be the best player ever at Aycock by the end of his senior year if he stays here the whole time. His whole view of the game is terrific.”

The Falcons will graduate seven seniors, including defensive stalwarts Bennett Jeffreys (sweeper) and Jake Bunn (goal-keeper). But Davis, Rodriguez and a corps of young talent return to a squad that is beginning to benefit from year-round players with the Goldsboro Sting Classic program.

More school history in 2006?

“We’re losing a lot off the defense, but we’ll work hard in the off-season and a lot of the freshman and younger players play Sting soccer,” Davis said. “I think we will be just as good next year.”