For the first time in school history, the Madison County Middle School soccer teams hold all four Northeast Georgia Interscholastic Athletic Association championships.
Both the boys and girls teams won their second-straight regular season championships, while the boys won their second-straight tournament title and the girl won their first-ever tournament crown at the region tournaments held at Hartwell’s Herndon Stadium March 26.
It marks the first time since Stephens County won all four titles in 2009 that one school has held all four soccer titles in the same year.
“It’s an incredible feeling to have both titles at the same time,” said MCMS boys coach David Yeary, whose team has won three of the last four regular season championships. “We’ve had some great teams in the past, but this is the first boys team in a long time to hold both the regular season and tournament titles.”
The sweep by the girls culminates a steady rise for the team under head coach Kristen Delay. Three seasons ago, the team captured second place in the region, then won its first regular-season title last year.
“This will be the team I tell future teams about,” said Delay. “This group of 22 girls was in it to win it from day one. They gave 100 percent at all times, and, when faced with adversity, they banded together and came up with a solution.”
Neither team was seriously challenged in the region tournament. The girls opened with a 7-0 thrashing of Franklin County in the semifinals, then blistered Stephens County 5-0 in the final.
The boys defeated Franklin 5-0 in the semis, then knocked off Elbert County 2-0 in the title match.
“Winning both the regular season and tournament championships were the perfect reward for this hard-working, dedicated group of athletes,” said Delay. “It was such a blessing to coach this amazing group.”
Both teams dominated region play, finishing with a combined 15-1 region record and giving up a total of only seven goals in region play. The girls cruised to an 8-0 region record and outscored opponents 40-4. The boys finished 7-1 and allowed only three goals against 42 scored.
The girls were led by seven eighth graders, including leading scorers Blakelyn Larkin and Kaitlyn Padgitt at forwards, team captain Ana Espinoza and Ansley Sand in midfield, Holly Glenn and Sydney Arnold at fullback, and keeper Jailie Bullock.
“Padgitt and Larkin were powerhouses up front, with Sand finding their feet with assists anywhere on the field” said Delay.
“Espinoza was the game-changer in the middle of the field, and her decision making was invaluable to the success of the team. Arnold and Glenn led an incredible defense, and Bullock was amazing in goal.”
Ironically, the boys’ team did not allow a goal in the only loss by either side. In a mid-season match, Stephens County was out-shot 27-1 but managed to preserve a 0-0 tie in regulation. Stephens won the overtime penalty kick shootout 3-2 to earn the upset.
“We scored a lot of goals, to be sure,” said Yeary, who, along with assistant Pam Yeary, retired as boys coach following the title-match victory. “But the real dominance from this team came in the midfield. We were extremely stingy in letting our opponent into their offensive side of the field.”
Leading the effort was center midfielder Levi Larkins, who Yeary calls “clearly the most outstanding player in the region.”
Larkins, along with midfielder Jacob Simmons and fullbacks Noah Dobbs, Daniel Parker, Zack Adams, and Hunter Edins, rarely let opponents get a shot away against keeper Tony Rico.
“I think the record speaks to the quality of our offensive weapons,” said Yeary. “Outscoring the opposition by nearly 40 goals not only made life relatively easy for us this year, but also allowed up to give our younger and developing players substantial playing time in region matches.”
The offense was led by forwards Jaylen White, Jarard Ford, Chandler Gunter, and Jose Tapia, and attacking midfielders Juan Torres, Cody Wofford, Marco Solis, Paulo Fernandez, and Pathany Roll.
“The depth of talent on this team was incredible,” said Yeary, whose teams had a 36-8 regular season record and three region championships in five seasons. “It was a very special group to go out with.”