All-County Boys Soccer Profiles
The senior center-defenseman who is making his fourth appearance on the All-County team was as valuable to Crescent City’s team as player of the year, Christian Lopez. With a workman-like attitude, Cruz delivered nine goals and four assists for 22 points offensively to the attack, while helping to close down opposing attacks in the center-back position.
“Hector is going to be a tough loss for us,” said Raiders coach Jeff Lease, who has had Cruz as a steady leader in the back all three years he’s been the head coach. “For the most part, he stayed in the backfield, but when we needed him to push up offensively, he did so because he was our fastest player on the field. Hector had the most seniority on our team, starting with us as an eighth-grader. He’s most likely our last five-year varsity player on this team (Crescent City went to strictly high school status in 2016). He could go anywhere for soccer, but I think he’s going to move on to a technical school.”
A one-year wonder as an exchange student from Spain, Ponga more than came into his own as the team’s main striker this past winter. He knocked in 14 goals and added nine assists for 37 points for Crescent City. Though he missed some matches due to foreign exchange work for the school, he still put in a full season in helping the Raiders to a 15-8-3 season.
“Mario has a skill level from playing in Spain that is different from players here,” Lease said. “It’s why he was able to score a lot of goals for us. Though he did miss a few games for us, he stepped up for us. He made some amazing passes and put the ball wherever he wanted to put it.”
As a freshman, Ocampo delivered four goals and two assists and had key roles in Crescent City reaching the state 2A Elite Eight last year. This past season, he made his presence felt as a midfielder, controlling the offensive and defensive sides of the field. Ocampo knocked in seven goals and added three assists as the Raiders reached the state tournament for the sixth straight season and eighth time in the 2010 decade.
“He’s just really good,” Lease said. “When he wasn’t in there, you can see how hard it was to get the ball up the field. He and Christian (Lopez) worked great together in midfield. They were just in sync all the time, especially the way they give-and-go with the ball. Roger also has an incredible shot from the outside.”
The Palatka High junior right back took a lot of the load on defensively and the difference was seen this year. A year ago, Palatka allowed 56 goals in 23 games. This year, the number dropped to 45 goals in 19 games, 14 of those goals coming in two losses to powerhouse Ponte Vedra. Panthers coach Jeff Malandrucco is excited about what’s ahead for his top defender as a senior.
“Isayah was the facilitator of the backline,” Malandrucco said. “He handled everything in the back. He understands the game more tan anyone else on our defense and he’s a student of the game. And on our team, he was the guy who kept everybody loose and in check.”
He is the third Herrington family member to earn All-County honors after older brother Hayden and middle brother Caleb, who was the Daily News Boys Soccer Player of the Year last year. The Palatka High sophomore went on without his brother and delivered nine goals and five assists for 23 points, the best point total on the team and one of three Panthers to deliver nine goals.
“Gabe always has a positive attitude,” Malandrucco said. “He’s also one of the nicest kids you want to know off the field. He’s everything you ever hear about pro athletes – he’s super fiery on the field, but off of it, he’s a great kid. He was a major key to what our offense did.”
The forward led Interlachen High in scoring this winter with seven goals and two assists for 16 points. According to his head coach, Roger Lloyd, the way he moves on the field is the most impressive thing about the senior.
“The kid can cut on a dime,” Lloyd said. “His lateral quickness is unparalleled. No one has that kind of quickness. It’s always fun to watch him get going with those really sharp turns. He has a great shot and has great shooting ability and aggression, especially being about 140 pounds. He’s one heck of a player.”
A year ago as a freshman, Perez delivered nine goals coming up from the junior varsity team in helping Crescent City get to the Region 2-2A championship game, a place no county soccer team had ever gone. This time around, Lease moved Perez back to the defense to fill a big need there and once again, it was his work in the back that kept the Raiders opponents to 51 goals in just 26 games. Offensively, Perez had four goals and an assist.
“He’s fast, physical and someone who feels comfortable playing in the back,” Lease said. “He did well there. Overall, he’s good anywhere you put him on the field. He’s one of the best players we can put in any position at any time. With Mario moving back to Spain, he may be going back to midfield or to the forward spot next year where he’d be aggressive.”
For the season, the Crescent City junior midfielder-forward recorded six goals and a county-best 13 assists for 25 points. That’s not bad considering Jimenez-Cruz spent six weeks sidelined by a red card he picked up in the second game of the season against Creekside. It cost him 10 games total, but when he came back, he made up for lost time, setting up his teammates for their goals. Eleven of his 13 assists came after he returned to the Raider lineup.
“When he was there, he was incredible,” Lease said of his two-time All-County standout. “He is as important to this team as Christian and Hector are. When I put him up front, he scored. In the midfield, he involves everyone in the play and gets them the ball. It seems like he had an assist on an important goal.”
While Hardyman was able to show his skill set on the defense, it’s Motl, a senior center-back, who showed his calm demeanor and leadership. Motl was able to mix it up with opponents’ offenses and be able to control the game back there, working along in unison with Hardyman on what was an improved season in the defensive part of the field.
“He’s a stud who has leadership and smarts,” Malandrucco said. “He was our anchor in the back. He maintained a 4-point plus grade point average and was one of the smartest kids in the school. His work ethic on and off the field was great.”
The only goalkeeper on the All-County team, Darcey was asked to step up time and time again behind a young defensive backfield. Playing varsity goalie for the first time, the Interlachen High senior stepped up, allowing 48 goals in 15 games for a 3.20 goals per game average, while stopping 167 shots and recording a shutout in a 3-0 District 5-2A victory in November against Newberry.
“He was extraordinarily reliable,” Lloyd said of the University of Florida-bound Darcey. “Justin was as tough as nails and provided leadership in goal. I had multiple coaches and players both tell me that he was the best goalkeeper they saw all year. He really kept us in games as we relied on his grit and his physical ability.”
The senior right wing came into his own this season for Palatka High. Stepping up into a starting role up front, Russell went for five goals and assisted on eight others for 18 points as his main goal was to feed Herrington, Samuel Santana and Devon Williams, all which scored nine goals, His distribution and work up front led to Palatka’s 10-7-2 season and the first time the Panthers had back-to-back 10-plus wins seasons in program history.
“Just his speed alone opened everything up for us,” Malandrucco said. “That speed changed games for us. He’s heading out to College of the Redwoods to play football next year. He’ll do well there.”
At the start of the Crescent City season, Consuelos started in the goalkeeping spot, sharing the position with freshman newcomer Jack Lewandowski. But as Lewandowski grew into the starting role, Consuelos was moved by Lease to midfield to offer help to Lopez and Ocampo while Jimenez-Cruz was missing due to the red card. All the versatile senior offered was five goals and two assists offensively and some key play defensively. In goal, he played nine games, allowed 18 cores and stop 56 shots.
“He’s just a smart player who helped us on the field a lot,” Lease said. “As a big kid, Josue was aggressive and helped us tremendously defensively, not letting guys go through and put the ball in the right spot. He’s another player we’re going to miss next year.”
– Mark Blumenthal