Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local Sports

May 15, 2014

Johnson, Carrion earn Player of the Year honors as 7 Panthers make All-Region team

AMERICUS — Americus-Sumter’s 2014 boy’s soccer team made history last week by winning the first playoff game in the school’s history. Seven of those history-making Panthers were rewarded for their tremendous performances this season, with senior Carl Johnson and freshman Jorge Carrion highlighting the select group of All-Region 1-AAAA selections.

Johnson has been an integral part of the Panther soccer team for four years, and he was one of the key players in Americus-Sumter’s first Region 1-AAAA Title in soccer two years ago. Johnson also put the finishing touches on the Panthers’ first playoff win by scoring on the fifth and final penalty kick in an overtime shoot-out against South Effingham on May 3.

This season, Americus-Sumter’s defensive star was rewarded for his tenacious play by the Region 1 coaches by being chosen as the 2014 Co-Defensive Player of the Year. Johnson made several highlight reel plays on defense, including a game-saving clear-out in the final seconds of regulation against South Effingham. Johnson was also dangerous on the offensive side of the field, scoring five goals and dishing out eight assists to his Panther teammates.

“Carl is a natural leader,” said Americus-Sumter head coach Gregory Fowler. “He never stopped talking or giving up in any game that I have watched him play in...no matter what the score. He is willing to do anything it takes to get any job done. Nine times out of 10, Carl will win any ball that goes in his area and clear it with a header. He has a very strong foot, an excellent work ethic, and he never gets tired.”

Another player than had a major role in Americus-Sumter’s historic win over South Effingham was freshman goal keeper Jorge Carrion. Throughout the 2014 season, Carrion improved every game for the Panthers. The best game of the year for the freshman keeper was against South Effingham where he turned away shot after shot, including four of the Mustang’s five penalty kicks in the decisive shoot-out.

Carrion’s 112-save performance this season was impressive enough to earn Freshman of the Year for Region 1-AAAA. His tremendous job replacing  senior goal-tender Alex Brown was not necessarily expected, but it was much-needed this season according to Fowler.

“Jorge was a big surprise and blessing,” he said. “He is willing to dive after any ball or take on any aggressive forward in a one-on-one situation. He will be an exciting player to watch develop in the coming years.”

Three seniors and one junior were also selected to the 2014 All-Region Team as first team members for Fowler this season. Seniors Dylan Morgan, Brayean Lepiz, and Edin Ancelmo were joined on the first team by junior Tylen Pepito, who led his squad in goals scored this season.

Ancelmo is a local legend for Americus-Sumter soccer fans. The senior led the league in goals last season, so it was a big blow to the Panthers when he went down with an injury very early this season. At the time he was injured, Ancelmo had already scored four goals for Americus-Sumter, and the region coaches chose him as a first team member because of his rare ability at the high school level.

“Edin has some of the best feet I have ever seen,” Fowler said. “He has a powerful and accurate shot, and he is feisty. He is also the only high school player I have ever seen successfully execute a bicycle-kick for a goal. He led the region in goals last year, and I am confident he would have done the same this year if he hadn't been injured.”

Pepito and Lepiz anchored the midfield positions for Americus-Sumter this season. Over the course of the year, Pepito sent 15 goals into the back of his opponent’s net and also collected eight assists. Lepiz led the team in assists with 18, and he too was a dangerous scoring threat inside the box with seven total goals this season.

“Tylen is very knowledgeable of the game. When I watch him gain possession of a ball, I always feel comfortable that he will not lose the ball easily or make a bad pass,” Fowler explained. “I love to watch an opponent challenge him physically. He is a scrappy player and will do whatever it takes to win the challenge or slow the opponent down. He also never gets tired...which is amazing considering he plays a wing position in a 3-5-2 offense.”

As for Lepiz, Fowler applauded the senior’s leadership this season.

“Brayean is a very smart player and a natural leader. He encourages players even when the outlook is not so good,” Fowler said. “He is a great distributor in the middle of the field; leading the team in assists with 18 (averaging one a game). He has a strong shot and a ton of confidence.

“He had an ACL/MCL surgery and missed last season. During conditioning at the beginning of the season, I remember watching him struggle with the pain that comes with the recovery of that type of injury. He pushed harder than any player, and I was very impressed.”

Although Johnson was chosen as the Co-Defensiive Player of the Year for the region, Americus-Sumter had another senior in the defensive backfield that gave opposing teams fits this season. Morgan was also not afraid to advance the ball up-field when he saw an opportunity, and he scored eight goals and tallied two assists this season.

“Dylan is aggressive, fast, and determined to win,” Fowler said of his senior leader. “He reminds me (when I played at his age) of me with his speed and aggressiveness. I played the same position as he (right back) does. He uses his speed to dominate. He will either take the ball from a challenging opponent or chase the opponent down and take the ball, and then use his speed to take the ball back up the field. He will slide tackle and he is far from afraid of being physical.”

Americus-Sumter’s All-Region honors did not end with the first team selections. Three midfielders, two seniors and a freshman, also collected All-Region selections after being chosen to the Region 1 Second Team.

Seniors Tya Skala, who scored the only regulation goal for the Panthers in their playoff win, and Ricardo Rodriguez ended their high school careers with the prestigious honor.

“Tye Skala is another smart player (and senior) that will be missed next year. He is a great passer and distributor. He had a knack at finding open players up top and launching the ball in their direction. He was also very good with his feet when he needed to be,” Fowler said.

“Ricardo will also be a senior that is missed next year. He struggled with injuries, but he would tape up ankles (or fix whatever injury it was) and play anyway,” he added. “He would play through pain knowing what a win would mean for the team. He is excellent with his feet and an accurate passer. I have tried to defend him in several practices...it can become very annoying and frustrating,” Fowler said with a laugh.

Frankie Gonzalez is one player honored that is just beginning his career at Americus-Sumter. The Panther freshman scored six goals and collected three assists in his first year in the Blue and White, and he will be one of the players that is counted on in the future by Fowler.

“Frankie is a tough little player,” said the head coach. “He has good speed and will get physical with any opponent no matter what the size...very entertaining to watch. He has a strong shot and is very good at anticipating opponent passes in order to take them. It will be exciting to watch him develop in the coming years.”

Americus-Sumter will be losing a lot of talented seniors from their history-making 2014 team, but they will also be returning a lot of talent in 2015. The future for the Panther soccer program is very bright, and there is no reason not to expect big things from them over the next few seasons.

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