Boys Player of the Year: JOSE VEGA
SCHOOL: Springdale High
THE SCOOP: Vega was a team captain and top goal scorer for the 7A-West Conference champions, leading the Bulldogs to a 19-2-1 record overall and 13-1 conference mark. … Vega came close to a school record for goals in a season, scoring 30 with 10 assists. … Springdale was ranked in the top 20 in the country before falling to Fort Smith Northside in the state semifinals. He scored the only goal for Springdale in the 2-1 loss. … Vega has been a starter since his freshman season. … Vega will visit several colleges this summer and will participate in a summer camp at the University of Central Arkansas.
DID YOU KNOW: Vega’s family moved to the U.S. from El Salvador when he was 13. He is learning to drive.
QUOTABLE: “We had a really good season, but losing to Northside was hard. We were so confident, maybe too confident. When we scored that first goal, I thought we would win, but they were able to find open spaces and took advantage of it,” said Vega of the semifinals loss.
— Chip Souza • @NWAChip
Boys Coach of the Year: MAURICIO MACIEL
SCHOOL: Fort Smith Northside
THE SCOOP: Maciel’s team started slowly, losing three of its first six matches. … The Grizzlies stunned the state by knocking off nationally ranked Springdale High 2-1 in the 7A state semifinals to advance to the championship match, where they blew out Rogers High 6-2 to finish the season 16-5-1. … The state championship was the second for Maciel at Northside and third state finals appearance. … Prior to beating Springdale, the Grizzlies were taken to the brink against Fayetteville before winning 1-0 in overtime … Before taking over the boys program at Northside six years ago, Maciel was an assistant coach at Fort Smith Southside for 11 years. … Northside has had Springdale’s number in the postseason in recent years, defeating the Bulldogs in the state final in 2013 on penalty kicks.
DID YOU KNOW: Maciel was born in central Mexico and moved to Mission, Texas, in 1987, where he finished high school. He played collegiate soccer at the University of Findley in Ohio.
QUOTABLE: “We did not tell that to the kids, but the coaching staff and I, we knew that whoever ended up winning that game was probably going to have the better chances in the state final. We did not tell them that. We told our kids it was a big game and you have to win it and we have to play smart. And they executed against a strong win against all odds, but we knew whoever won that game was probably going to end up being state champions,” Maciel said of his team’s semifinal match against Springdale.
— Chip Souza • @NWAChip
Boys Newcomer of the Year: FREDERIC LEROY
THE SCOOP: Leroy, a foreign exchange student from Belgium, was invited to play on the high school soccer team after he was spotted playing with others at the local community center. … He went on to lead the Bobcats in goals (20) and assists (16) and helped the Bobcats reach the Class 4A state finals for the first time in 11 years. … The all-state selection was lauded by coach Dyllan Candelaria for his unselfish play in the midfield and ability to distribute the ball, but he was also a strong offensive player. … The 18-year-old speaks French and Dutch but had to learn English quickly when he came to the U.S. … However, he found a common language in soccer since he’s played the sport since he was four. … He lives in the city of Perwez, Belgium, which has a population of just over 8,000, but he’s less than an hour from Brussels, the capital of Belgium.
DID YOU KNOW: Leroy also ran on Berryville’s cross country team, and his club soccer team won a national championship in Belgium. He wants to return to his country to study medicine and become a neurosurgeon.
QUOTABLE: “The school was way different because in Belgium in school we don’t have sports. I was happy to have sports in school here. I knew in past years they made it to state but didn’t do that good. The last time they made it to the finals was 2007, and we made this year. That’s crazy and was super fun. To meet people it was hard, but I liked it. I met great people and made great friends. I’m sad a little bit leaving, but it was a great experience.”
— Paul Boyd • @NWAPaulB