Undoubtedly, Austin Huddy’s Carolina Elite Soccer Academy (CESA) teammates were happy to be playing alongside the Nation Ford senior instead of against him last week at the Southern Regionals club soccer championships in Oklahoma.
The last time they were playing against each other, Huddy scored a pair of first-half goals in a 3-2 upset win against J.L. Mann, a squad filled with CESA players and the 2012 Class AAAA state champions. Huddy’s finest individual moments during an outstanding senior campaign that saw him score 20 goals and assist 10 more, helped earn him the Herald’s 2013 All-Area Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year award.
“It feels great,” Huddy said. “It’s one of the best regions and to be named player of the year in this region, it’s a huge honor.”
“He came out and played for a purpose this year,” said Elton Ramey, coach at Nation Ford. “He played for me in the past; he didn’t have that same kind of drive that he did this year. And because of that, it’s like he willed us to win games.”
Ramey attributed that drive to a senior sense of urgency. Huddy, an all-state selection who will play college soccer this fall at Charlotte’s Queens University, was a catalyst in Nation Ford’s improbable playoff run that took them to the Upper State championship. There, the school that had never won a postseason boys’ soccer game before this spring finally succumbed to Irmo, but not before ousting J.L. Mann in the round prior.
“I think a lot of the teams we played really underestimated us. Especially J.L. Mann,” said Huddy. “They came in very confident as the reigning state champs. I think being the underdog, we used that to our advantage in the playoffs.”
The Falcons also had a talisman to lead the way. Huddy did so through his play and his actions.
“In a way, he helped our team be more relaxed because he was so calm,” Ramey said. “It’s something that he’s been doing the last couple of years in club, so it was something he was able to translate into success on the soccer field for the school.”
During the game in Greenville, Huddy stunned his club soccer teammates with a quick-fire pair of goals that put the Falcons in control of the third-round fixture.
“That was by far my favorite game,” he said. “I’m friends with most of those guys and to score two goals so quickly and get my team a win was just amazing.”
Both goals resulted from long punts from Nation Ford keeper Josh Brukner, which Huddy controlled while holding off J.L. Mann defenders on his own. The finishes were exquisite, two memories soldered into Huddy’s mental hard drive for many years to come. They also made for an interesting next meeting with his CESA teammates.
“They weren’t too happy about it,” he said.
Huddy plays on the backline for CESA, meaning the defenders he was bullying in the Falcons’ win were his co-defenders in club ball.
“For him to outplay them in a position he truly hadn’t played in a couple of years, was amazing,” said Ramey.
At regionals this past weekend, CESA had to win Sunday to stay alive in the tournament. Ramey said that a spate of injuries forced CESA to push Huddy up front. No doubt he had some teammates who would vouch for his effectiveness. Their belief would have been confirmed when Huddy duly scored twice in a 3-2 win against North Carolina’s HFC Red that kept CESA’s shot at qualifying for nationals alive.
“He hasn’t stopped doing what he was doing for me,” Ramey said Monday, chuckling.
Bret McCormick • 329-4032; Twitter: @BretJust1T