The Sandhills 3A/4A Athletic Conference played some of the best soccer in the area this fall, with Lee County missing the state finals by a mere penalty-kick shootout in the East Regional finals, and Southern Lee advancing to the second round of the 3A state playoffs. Between them, they won both the regular-season and conference tournament titles in the SAC’s first year.
Pinecrest, the conference’s top 4A team, was no slouch either, winning 17 matches and reaching the second round of the 4A postseason party. In addition, Union Pines and Hoke County earned state playoff invites.
There was a strong Lee County flavor to the SAC All-Conference teams that were announced this week. As regular-season champs, the Yellow Jackets, who went 10-0-2 in conference action and didn’t lose until the final of the conference tournament, led everyone with seven All-Conference selections, along with 2021 SAC Coach of the Year Brad Wicker. The Patriots, who finished second overall, had five, but then Southern Lee put four of its players on the team.
Logan Jordan, Thomas Perry, Ivan Lopez, Christian Chicas, Irvin Gutierrez, Jeremy Chavez and Owen Edwards represented the Jackets on the team. As for Wicker, he has won several coaching accolades before, but this may have been his best job of all. The Jackets won just two matches in a COVID-plagued spring season, but then took 19 in the fall with a team at full strength.
The other individual awards went outside of Lee County, as while both the Jackets and Cavaliers were strong teams from top to bottom, the coaches tapped the top individual performers as Union Pines’ Liam Thayer (Goalkeeper of the Year); Pinecrest’s Gerald Ofusu (Offensive Player of the Year), and Hoke’s Ailton Tirado Martinez (Defensive Player of the Year).
Southern Lee’s All-Conference players were Isaac Mireles, Angel Terrones, Aldo Delgado and Levi Peraza. The Cavaliers went 14-7-1 this season, finishing the season strong and defeating both Pinecrest and Lee on their way to the tournament crown.
For the Patriots, Ofusu was joined on the team by Matthew Mueller, Landon McMinimy, Eric Sabiston, and Ben Velevis.
Hoke’s Tirado Martinez was joined by teammates Joseph Buel, Julio Antinozzi, and Roberto Sanchez Perez. Thayer was joined by his Union Pines teammates Griffin Booker and Jordan Carr. Cody Eason made it for Richmond and Scotty Boone for Scotland.