Small School Boys Soccer Player of Year: Gabriel Hernandez

All-Empire Small School Boys Soccer Athlete of the Year: Fort Bragg's Gabriel Hernandez. Photo: Conner Jay / The Press Democrat

All-Empire Small School Boys Soccer Athlete of the Year: Fort Bragg’s Gabriel Hernandez. Photo: Conner Jay / The Press Democrat

By TED SILLANPAA
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Gabriel Hernandez expected his Fort Bragg High School boys soccer team to be good.

It turned out to be great, just like Hernandez.

“I knew with a group of seniors who’d played together for awhile, that we would be good,” said the senior star. “I was surprised that we went unbeaten in the league. I didn’t expect that at all.”

The Timberwolves outscored NCL I opponents 57-14.

“What set us apart was our communication and our passing,” Hernandez said. “The seniors have all been good friends for a long time. We knew how to play together and that really helped.”

The lone tie came in October after Hernandez and his team had fallen behind Lower Lake.

“We were down 2-0 at halftime,” the midfielder remembered. “We talked and said it was up to us to come back. We managed to save ourselves and then wound up without losing a league match.”

Fort Bragg is a town where high school sports still absolutely rule.

“I love the way the community supports our teams,” Hernandez said. “Football gets great support. Our soccer is usually strong. So, this year was just unbelievable.”

Hernandez joined the OLFC Mendo club team team when he was 16. It started him on the road to great success.

“The school team is that club team,” Hernandez said. “It exposes players to top competition as youth players. I think I was aware of my potential and ability, but I knew I had room to grow … things to learn.”

Hernandez has long prepared for the type season he had at Fort Bragg. “I’ve been a midfielder most of my life,” he said. “I’m fast enough, so they used me at forward when I was a sophomore. I played my last two seasons at midfield.”

Though no statistics were kept, Hernandez was a prolific producer on offense and regarded by many as the best offensive player in the league.

Hernandez attended the MLS San Jose Earthquakes Academy.

“I got exposure. I feel that’s what got me to the next level,” Hernandez said. “I went to a college showcase camp, too.”

An outstanding student, Hernandez said he won’t choose a college based on being able to play the game.

“I’ve applied at Stanford, the Claremont colleges, USC and schools in the east,” Hernandez said. “If I can play soccer in college, OK. I wanted that option and I applied at schools where I can get a chance to play.”

Hernandez plans to major in pre-med to eventually become an orthodontist or a dentist. Don’t expect him to spend a great deal of time pondering his magnificent senior soccer season.

“I think I’ll miss high school, sure,” Hernandez said. “But, I have so much to look forward to in college. When I go off to college, I’ll be looking forward, not backward.”

You can reach The Press Democrat’s Ted Sillanpaa at 526-8623 or ted.sillanpaa@pressdemocrat.com.

All-Empire Small-Schools Boys Soccer

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Gabriel Hernandez, senior, Fort Bragg

FIRST TEAM

Cyrus Madden, senior, Mendocino

Alex Morales, junior, Roseland Prep

Jose Gaxiola, senior, Anderson Valley

Alexis Magana, senior, Archbishop Hanna

Eric Martinez, senior, Anderson Valley

Cristian Macias, senior, Kelseyville

Michael Cantnell, senior, Rincon Valley Christian

Alexis Perea, senior, Calistoga

Jose Araiza, junior, Fort Bragg

Ignacio Gonzalez, senior, St. Helena

Joe Demars, senior, St. Vincent

SECOND TEAM

Jonathan Groothoof, sophomore, Rincon Valley Christian

Hector Toscano, senior, Fort Bragg

Carlos Uelarde, senior, Willits

Ricardo Carrillo, junior, Cloverdale

London Gozashti, junior, St. Vincent

Alexis Garcia, senior, Calistoga

Adolyo Morales, junior, Roseland Prep

Misael Chavez, senior, Cloverdale

Miguel Garcia, senior, St. Helena

Brandon Rannells, senior, Middletown

Luis Ruiz, senior, Lower Lake

COACH OF THE YEAR

Dan Arreguin, Fort Bragg

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