The stormy weather moved out just in time for GMC Prep to honor its 2021 soccer teams in an outdoor banquet Tuesday.
Players, coaches and parents came together to reflect on the season and see who came away with the year’s top awards.
It was another strong campaign for the Bulldogs and Lady Dogs of the soccer pitch after COVID canceled play last spring. The GMC boys famously repeated as state champs in May while the girls earned a share of the region championship before it was ultimately awarded to ACE Charter on the sixth tiebreaker.
Lady Dogs head coach Tommy Howell, who just completed his fifth and final season at the helm, was first up Tuesday. He’s stepping back as girls soccer coach, but will remain at the school. His team finished the year at 8-5-1 after having split two close matches with the defending state champs from ACE. Howell’s four-year seniors finished up their careers with a 40-16 overall record along with one area championship and this year’s shared title pre-tiebreaker. The head coach handed out junior varsity awards first, giving the Coach’s Award to Polly Rose Baugh for her willingness to play wherever needed while the JV Most Valuable Player went to Chloe Garrett.
Next up were the girls varsity awards. Senior keeper Bella Herring came away with the Coach’s Award and her classmate Shelby Duke was given the Bulldog Award. Most Improved went to Belle Warren, a senior who only started playing soccer her final two years of high school. The team Academic Award was earned by senior Emilie Sherwood.
There were no surprises when it came to the GMC Prep girls Defensive Player of the Year and Team MVP selections. Senior Mary Katherine Lawrence was named the Region 7-A Public Defensive Player of the Year after the season, and took home the same honor for her team Tuesday. Lawrence was tenacious on defense, slide tackling many a would-be possible goal scorer well short of their intended destination. Lawrence had the option to play soccer collegiately at GMC, but will play softball there instead. Finally came the Team MVP award, which went to do-it-all senior Logan Mitchem. She finished her career with 51 goals scored, 13 of which came this season along with 17 assists. She was also named the Region 7-A Public Offensive Player of the Year.
The now back-to-back GHSA Class A-Public state champion GMC Prep boys were then given the spotlight. They entered the ’21 season as the favorite to take state because they returned a lot of talent from that ’19 championship. Things looked a little rocky early in the schedule against some bigger schools, but the ‘Dogs later got back on the right track to take their place atop the classification. The team was 12-6 overall and cumulatively outscored opponents 86-29. The boys from ACE proved to be a big hurdle as they took both regular season matches 4-1 and 4-3, but GMC won the one that mattered most when senior Ethan Tolentino jetted his way to two overtime goals that beat the Gryphons for the championship on May 14 in Macon. The Bulldogs led this season by head coach Scott Seagraves, who carried the official head coaching title as a member of the school faculty, and community coach Bobby Jaworski who has been steering the program for years. Former GMC Prep player Colby Smith was also on board as an assistant.
The coaches began by handing out JV awards, first to keeper Shawn Boyce who was named Most Improved before the MVP went to Tyler Smith. On to the varsity, freshman Brian Sherwood was named Most Improved at that level, and the Bulldog Award went to one of his classmates, Owen McCabe. McCabe’s Bulldog Award, given to the player that does “what ever it takes” to help the team, was mostly earned in the state championship match against ACE. A defensive adjustment from the prior two meetings had him matched up against the Gryphons’ best player full-time, and McCabe shut him down. The Coach’s Award went to senior Jackson Miller before Jaworski did something a little unconventional with the Team MVP selection. That recognition was split among the senior trio of Jack Harris, Colin McCabe and Ethan Tolentino. Harris finished with 14 goals and 10 assists while the midfielder McCabe went for 14 goals and 16 helpers. Tolentino was the team’s top scorer with 25 goals and ended his career with more than 60.
“These guys provided not only experience and leadership, but they’re just absolutely amazing guys on and off the field,” Jaworski said. “They’re going to leave huge shoes to fill in all areas of the game — defense, attacking and in the midfield controlling the game. We’ve enjoyed the successes all together and wish them nothing but the best in the future.”
That was it for player awards, but a couple more recognitions were handed out before the night ended. Jaworski and Smith were each given game balls the team earned by winning throughout the playoffs, and finally a special presentation was made to Mr. Cisco Moss, the bus driver who shuttled the team to its final three games of the season.
The Bulldogs have some work ahead of them if they want to see Mr. Moss carry them back to the state championship round. A few experienced players return in 2022, but replacing the Class of 2021’s firepower will be tough. The team can worry about that later though because there’s still one more piece of business to take care of from the ’21 season — ring day.