Eagles soccer piling up awards

ELIZABETHTOWN — The East Bladen boys soccer program continues to receive accolades following a 21-2 season that included a Three Rivers Conference title with a 14-0 record.

Leading the way was senior Brooks McGill, who has been named to the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association Class 2-A All-State team. McGill, who was also the conference’s Player of the Year — a first for East Bladen High — scored 32 goals and had 39 assists. He was also an N.C. Soccer Coaches Association All-Region first-team selection.

Eagles head coach Jay Raynor, on top of being the conference’s Coach of the Year, was also honored as the NCSCA Regional Coach of the Year and finalist for the Class 2-A Coach of the Year.

“It is a great honor to be selected … it’s hard to even begin to describe the feeling,” Raynor said. “Our region is full of powerhouse programs and amazing coaches who I have looked up to for years. When you think teams in our region you think of Wallace, Clinton, East Duplin, to name just a few (and) you think of their coaches like Dr. Greybar, Brad Spell, Joey Jones. To be able to be mentioned with those extraordinary programs and talented coaches is something that’s hard to describe. I owe those coaches a lot as they all have taken time to share things here and there.”

The honors for Eagles soccer players also included Spencer Scott, Jake Evans, Greyson Heustess and Pierce Melvin as All-Region selections; Gabe Barber, Caleb Hatchell and Ezequiel Arteaga were each tabbed All-Region honorable mentions.

“These honors are something my guys earned” Raynor said. “They have put in the hard work and have transformed our program. What they have done on and off the field are the reasons that I was given these awards. It’s what they are doing that have put us in conversations and make it hard to look past us.

“To have 11 guys honored for their conference play as well as the conference player of the year was something I couldn’t have dreamed of,” he added. “Then to have eight players mentioned for NCSCA All-Region and to have five to make the All-Region team is extraordinary.”

This was McGill’s third time being selected to the NCSCA All-Region team; Scott made his threee appearance on the All-Region Team; while Evans, Heustess and Melvin are all first-time All-Region award winners.

With those five NCSCA All-Region awards, they almost double the amount of recipients from East Bladen — Ian Maynard (2007), Corey Rogers (2007), Izzy Evans (2010-‘12), Luke Suggs (2011), Matthew Massengill (2013-‘14) and Scott (2015-‘17).

“All are very deserving of those honors and I was extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to coach them,” Raynor said. “My guys worked hard and their hard work hasn’t gone unnoticed.”

Along with the above awards, East Bladen also had Jacob Barber honored with the United Soccer Coaches Senior Excellence Award — given to the student-athlete who shows exceptional contributions to the team and exemplifying the finest attributes of a high school student athlete.

It is the first time an Eagles soccer player has been recognized with the award.

“Jacob is the ideal representative for East Bladen soccer as well as East Bladen high school,” Raynor said. “This is a young man who always does the right thing and gives it his very best. I am thankful to have had the opportunity to coach Jacob. He has made me a better coach as well as a person. Jacob has given a lot to our soccer program and words will never describe what he has meant to this program.”

Jacob Barber was a four-year member of the varsity soccer team, serving as a captain his junior and senior seasons, leading his teams to a 36-8-1 record over the last two seasons. He has also been instrumental in fundraising efforts, off-season workouts, and other community projects such as the Optimist Christmas Tree Sales, the Optimist BBQ sale, and also helping coach Recreation and middle school soccer teams.

He is a member of the National Honor Society, Beta Club and Fellowship of Christian Athletes — all while being the No. 1 student in his class.