Bruce Ladner of Enterprise / Coach of the Year
Background: Ladner has been the head coach of the Wildcats for the past five years. He is a USSF National B licensed coach who has led Louisiana and Alabama club teams, select teams, Olympic Development teams and a team which toured the former Soviet Union.
This year: Ladner led the Wildcats to a 14-6-4 record, the area title and the championship game in the Class 7A Final Four.
Enjoy most about coaching: Getting on the practice field every day with a great group of highly motivated teenagers keeps me sharp and allows me to help shape the future. I end up learning just as much from them as they learn from me.
Most memorable moments this season: The most memorable moments are beating Auburn at Auburn to get to the Final Four, seeing Tyler Howard’s 30-yard shot hit the back of the net against McGill-Toolen with 9 seconds left in the state semifinals and watching Andre Mazariegos score with 25 seconds left in the state final to send the game to overtime.
What made this year’s team so special? This team played their best soccer when the playoffs started and left no doubt that we would be going to the Final Four. Their “never give up” attitude and ability to play until the final second is off the clock.
On being named Coach of the Year: It is a tremendous honor, and this would not have been possible without my great assistant coaches, Ed Howard and Manny Andino. And any coach is only as good as his players, and I was fortunate to have wonderful players.
Rasheed Bolaji of Enterprise / Player of the Year
Background: Bolaji moved to Enterprise in 2011 and started playing at the YMCA and later on the Wiregrass Futbol Club. He then progressed to play in the Birmingham United Soccer Association in addition to playing for Enterprise.
This year: A wide-attacking senior who is excellent at ball possession, beating defenders and creating scoring opportunities, Bolaji tallied 17 goals and had eight assists.
Enjoy most about soccer: What I enjoy most about soccer is being able to make people happy. When I score and see the fans and my team happy, it is the best feeling in the world.
Most memorable moments this season: It would probably just be being able to play in the finals of the state championship.
What made this year’s team special? I feel like our chemistry and how close we were to one another is really what made our team special this year. Our ability to bond on and off the field was crucial to the success of our team.
Goals for the future: To further my soccer career and be the best I can be.
On being named player of the year: Honestly, I know there are many others that could have received this award, so I am just grateful. I feel like all my days of hard work have finally paid off. I just want to thank my teammates, my coaches and my parents. This wouldn’t be possible without them and all of their support.
Rasheed Bolaji – Enterprise
A senior captain who scored 17 goals and provided eight assists in leading the Wildcats to the area title and Class 7A state championship game.
Andre Mazariegos – Enterprise
The versatile defender led the Wildcats with 73 defensive clearances to prevent goal scoring chances. Scored his lone goal of the season to send the state championship game into overtime.
Tyler Howard – Enterprise
A strong possession player who scored eight goals and provided four assists in helping the team to a 14-6-4 record. Scored the winning goal in the second OT of the Final Four semifinals.
Sam Mazariegos – Enterprise
Led the team in scoring with 19 goals and also contributed six assists. Chosen to compete for the South team in the AHSAA All-Star game.
Ethan Morales – Houston Academy
Morales led the team in scoring with 24 goals and also contributed 13 assists in helping the Raiders to a 12-5-2 record.
Carson Daugherty – Houston Academy
A versatile player who had 80 takeaways and blocked 12 shots along with scoring six goals and gaining 14 assists while playing every minute of every game.
James Odom – Eufaula
The leading scorer with 16 goals along with adding five assists in helping the Tigers to a 10-6-2 record and state playoff appearance.
Ben Westbrook – Eufaula
A five-year varsity player, Westbrook scored 11 goals, had seven assists and 65 takeaways in being selected as the team’s MVP.
Alec Palanjian – Northview
One of the most talented players in the Wiregrass, Palanjian scored 12 goals and contributed 12 assists for the Cougars.
Teddy Dowd – Northview
A captain of the team who led a strong defensive unit for a Northview team which finished 12-9-3, won the area title and made the second round of the state playoffs.
Keegan Dutton – Northview
Dutton was an offensive playmaker for the Cougars with 13 goals and 11 assists in helping the team to the area championship.
Christian Morales –Dothan
Morales is a talented player on the offensive end of the field who scored 11 goals and contributed seven assists for the Tigers.