The Rockport-Fulton High School (RFHS) varsity boy’s soccer team enters the 2021 district season with a rejuvenated offense after losing another strong senior class last season.
The Pirates finished the 2020 season second place in District 30-4A and hoped to make a strong showing in the postseason with a balanced team. However, the 2020 Pirates never got that opportunity due to the COVID-19 pandemic, cancelling their season after the final district game.
The Pirates graduated eight seniors last season, six of them starters. Back in April 2020, RFHS Head Boy’s Soccer Coach Mike Elkins said it was all-around the best team he ever coached.
“I’ve said this before but, this team did not consist of the best players I’ve ever coached, but it was all-around the best team I’ve ever had,” said Elkins.
Of those seniors, was District 30-4A’s Most Valuable Player, Joel Gonzalez. Tragically, J. Gonzalez took his own life June 17, 2020; 26 days after graduating from RFHS.
A week after his passing, the 2020 RFHS soccer team led a walk of remembrance, with more than 100 RFHS students, to his childhood home from RFHS. The team met, prayed, and consoled with the family of J. Gonzalez.
Elkins said J. Gonzalez was a huge piece to RFHS’ team last season, and his death left a profound impact, specifically on many of RFHS’ current senior players.
“There were a couple of them whom he (J. Gonzalez) was very close to and is still having a personal lingering effect on them, as it should. As it probably will for a long time,” said Elkins. “But they have kind of rallied around (his memory). I’ve heard them discuss, ‘Doing it for Joel. What would Joel do?’ So, there has been a legacy he’s left that I think will be here awhile in the program.”
As for the 2021 team, Elkins said there are some big shoes to fill in the midfield and defense left behind from the graduating 2020 class. However, an area Elkins said has taken a step in the right direction is the play of his forward positions, led by strikers Richard Lizcano and Cristobol Deleon.
“This is the best offensive team I’ve ever had,” said Elkins. “We’re still trying to find ourselves in the defensive end, and I think that will come. But offensively, we’ve scored more goals in four pre-season games than I did my entire first season (coaching). So, that’s been a pleasant surprise.”
The Pirates move into an almost completely new district this season in District 28-4A. While the district includes a familiar foe in Beeville, Gonzalez, Calhoun, Palacios, and Yoakum are all new additions to RFHS’ schedule.
Because of the uncertainty of RFHS’ new opponents, Elkins believes the district will be a toss up.
“We’re going into this district with our eyes wide open,” said Elkins. “Gonzalez was a powerhouse last year; I have no idea what they have this year. Port Lavaca consistently fields a strong program, so I don’t expect anything less from them.
“We get a (couple) smaller school’s in Palacios and Yoakum. And Beeville, who won district last year, graduated 12 kids. So talent wise, I think they’re going to be down this year.”
The district matchups on the road will be tough for RFHS, with Yoakum, Gonzalez and Palacios all at least one and a half hour drives.
This year’s varsity team consists of seven seniors, six juniors, two sophomores, and one freshman.
Seniors are Brayden Anderberg, Michael Gonzalez, R. Lizcano, Gavin Mayfield, Sergio Rodriguez, Alex Ruiz, and Nathan Terhune.
Anderberg is new to the team this season and splits time on defense.
M. Gonzalez returns for a third season at keeper. Elkins say’s he is one of the team’s most vocal leaders, and brings a high level of consistency.
“I don’t have any issues with him being back there,” said Elkins. “He’s just been ‘solid’ for us, in one word. He’s been very consistent.”
R. Lizcano has been one of RFHS’ biggest playmakers at the forward position.
“He’s just tenacious,” said Elkins. “He being up top, he’s going to get double and triple teamed a lot. But his skill set is such, that he can hold the ball, maintain, and distribute it.”
Mayfield steps into a bigger role this season on the defensive side for RFHS.
Rodriguez is another quality defensive sub employed by Elkins to be a tough presence at centerback.
Ruiz is a talented offensive weapon who often transitions from midfielder to forward.
“He understands the game very well, and you can’t teach that,” said Elkins. “He has the ability to find the open man and cross the ball.”
Terhune is a speedy option for RFHS whom is used most of the time in the midfield.
Juniors are Wyatt Bohn, Max Carreon, Cody Davila, Rickey Franks, Scott Salinas, and Phillip Vu.
Bohn and Salinas provide a solid defensive rotation in the back end.
M. Carreon has been RFHS’ main facilitator in the middle. Elkins say’s he’s the most physical player on the team.
“He’s usually the biggest guy on the field,” said Elkins. It’s all about his strength and not only his (upper) body strength, but his leg strength. His power to drive a shot. He is extremely hard to knock off the ball.”
Davila is a midfielder whom Elkins said is as solid a player as can be running the midfield.
Franks and Vu split time in the midfield.
Sophomores are Ian Lizcano and Alex Carreon.
Elkins said I. Lizcano and A. Carreon could benefit from playing on the junior varsity level, but wanted to expose them to high-level play quickly on varsity.
The lone freshman is Deleon.
Deleon, who was also the starting kicker for the RFHS football team this past season, has been nothing short of excellent, Elkins expressed.
“He is one of the better finesse players I’ve ever seen,” said Elkins. “He is like watching a water bug in action. He will slice and dice, dart and weave; you think he’s going one direction, and he ends up going another.”
RFHS is 1-1 in the young district season and will play their next game Tuesday, Feb. 16 at home against Yoakum.