Apr. 10—Through a unique season — with games played from January to March instead of its normal fall slot on the high school sports slate — Robeson County's high school boys soccer players had a solid season.
While only one team made the playoffs, as St. Pauls did so after winning the Three Rivers Conference, that doesn't mean there weren't solid performances from everyone else as well.
Some players stood out above the rest, and those players earned selections to The Robesonian's All-County team.
Player of the Year
Breaking out with a 21-goal season — a figure in this truncated season that would have led Robeson County in the full season in 2019 — Lumberton sophomore forward Luis Izeta is Robeson County's Player of the Year.
Izeta's 21 goals came in just 14 games, and he also tallied four assists.
"It was a breakout season for a very technical, gifted player who improved his work rate and fitness level this season," Lumberton coach Kenny Simmons said. "He has a nose for the ball, reads the game well and his runs off the ball have gotten so much better. He will be a force to be reckoned with the next two seasons — he has All-State potential in his future."
The 21-goal tally was a jump from the four goals he scored in his freshman season. Izeta led the Pirates to an 8-4-2 record, finishing third in the Sandhills Athletic Conference and narrowly missing an at-large berth to the state playoffs.
Coach of the Year
Leading St. Pauls to its first conference title in a decade, Brent Martin is the Robeson County Coach of the Year.
The Three Rivers Confererence championship was the first for the laid-back Martin in 10 years, with key wins in the last week of the season over Red Springs and Whiteville to earn the title.
It was clear throughout the season how much Martin is liked by his players, who said they left it all on the field for their coach.
"We did it all for (Coach Martin), because he hasn't gotten a conference championship since 10 years ago, and we had to do it for him," Anthony Sosa said after the Red Springs win on March 10. "On my mind was Coach Martin the whole time, and all the hard work that he had done for us."
Goalkeeper of the Year
Jorge Cabrera Angeles is the Robeson County Goalkeeper of the Year after his work in goal was a key part of the Bulldogs' conference title.
Cabrera Angeles allowed just 10 goals over the team's 10 games played. He had 18 quality saves on the season.
Allen Diaz-Inestroza, Sr., Midfielder, St. Pauls — The leading goal scorer in St. Pauls' conference title run, Diaz-Inestroza had 12 goals and five assists, including a four-goal game against Whiteville. He earned All-Region honors.
Anthony Sosa, Jr., Forward, St. Pauls — Sosa, also an All-Region player, scored 10 goals with two assists in eight games as he battled injury; this included five goals in a key win over Red Springs late in the season.
Keni Verdugo-Gomez, Sr., Midfielder/Forward, St. Pauls — The West Bladen transfer added a new dimension to the Bulldogs team this year, coach Brent Martin said, scoring six goals and five assists.
Jorge Gomez, Sr., Midfielder, Lumberton — Coach Kenny Simmons refers to Gomez as his most important player; he's a two-way player at midfield who impacts the game far beyond the box score. Gomez had four goals and four assists.
Julian McGarahan, Jr., Defender/Midfielder, Lumberton — The Pirates' defensive anchor at center back, McGarahan is a great passer and one-on-one defender.
Javier Villagomez, Jr., Forward/Midfielder, Red Springs — Villagomez was a prolific goal scorer for the Red Devils, tallying seven goals with two assists.
Olvin Diaz, Jr., Forward/Midfielder, Red Springs — Diaz led Robeson County with nine assists, facilitating the Red Devils' scoring opportunities.
Zachary Hunt, Jr., Defender/Midfielder, Purnell Swett — An All-Region player, Zachary Hunt played wherever on the field he was needed for Purnell Swett, even playing some at goalkeeper.
Jalen Hunt, Jr., Midfielder, Purnell Swett — Rams coach Alaric Strickland says Hunt is always trying to get himself and his teammates involved in the attacking third of the field.
Lumberton's Jonathan Carrera and Purnell Swett's Nehemiah Maynor and Kevin Locklear earned honorable mention selections.
The All-County Team is chosen by The Robesonian sports staff with input from coaches.
Chris Stiles can be reached at 910-816-1977 or by email at [email protected] You can follow him on Twitter at @StilesOnSports.