• 64°

2020 All-Area Soccer Team: Unsung defender Edward Brown notches Player of the Year

Oxford soccer coach Charles Sabatier was excited about this past season.

The senior class, who were freshmen when he took over as coach, was among the hardest-working classes he’s ever had.

Amid a myriad of lineup changes and injuries, they stayed strong and many adapted to play new spots. One of the constants, however, was senior center defender Edward Brown, the EAGLE’s 2020 Player of the Year.

“Defensive players never have the stats. They never really get that attention,” Sabatier said. “He’s the leader of our defense. He’s the tallest guy on our back line, and we weren’t a tall team. He’s vocal back there. He’s probably the best player in the air definitely on our team, offensive or defensive, on corner kicks.”

Brown has always been one of the taller guys in his grade. As the center of the Oxford defense, that’s quite the huge advantage (no pun intended). By his senior season, he stood 6-foot-3, just about a head taller than everyone else on this Charger team.

Sabatier joked that defenders don’t really get stats, and he’s right. Brown scored twice this year, ranking him in a tie for seventh on the Oxford team. He added one assist.

While they may not “get stats,” one can somewhat judge a defender by team defense. Even while rotating keepers to start the year, Oxford pitched five shutouts this season, including their 5-0 win over Lewisburg to open the playoffs. Seven other times, they allowed just one single goal.

“My first-ever year of travel soccer, they put me on defense. It’s kind of always been my thing,” Brown said. “It can get boring at times. I don’t get to pad my stats or anything like that, but what I get to do is be the leader of the team. I can see the whole field, and I really know what’s going on. I’ve always thought it worked best for me and what I want as a leader of the team.”

As a senior, Brown was the unquestioned leader. The year prior, that guy stood directly behind him. Griffin O’Neil, the 2019 EAGLE Player of the Year, was a vocal player on defense from the goalkeeper spot while Brown was coming up.

Brown acknowledged the way that rubbed off on him, how it helped him going into the year when he had to take on that role on the back line.

“Griffin had started since his sophomore year. He always knew what to do, and was a big help to me. Griffin was always very vocal back there. Whenever I, or another guy, would make a mistake, he would let us know. He was demanding like that,” Brown said. “This year, me and a few of the other guys had to step into that role, and then kind of reversing it and help our goalies out.”

The consistency has really been there for years for this Charger senior group. Brown joked that he’s had four principles in four years in school, yet he’s had the same soccer coach every year. This senior class won state as freshmen, very few of them playing much at all that year.

As the group grew up into upperclassmen, they never lost more than six games in a season as juniors and seniors. Now, continuing to grow, Brown’s actually hanging up his cleats. His soccer days are behind him. He’ll be going across town next year, enrolling at Ole Miss.

The Rest of the 2020 Team:

F: Luke Freeman (Oxford, Sr.)

Freeman missed 20 percent of the team’s games at the start of the season and still led the team in scoring (15 goals) and tied for the team lead in assists (10).

“His speed was the top of everybody we played against. I’d describe Luke as being as fast as he needed to be,” Sabatier said. “But he became one of our more creative guys up top, both in how he played and how he led and taught our younger guys.”

F: Anthony Jones (Lafayette, Junior)

Jones led Lafayette in both goal (9) and assists (5). One of three Commodores on the offensive side returning next season, the team is excited about their offensive future.

“He was so much more confident in himself a a junior. Of course, he’s grown some and gotten faster and stronger, but that just gave him confidence,” said Lafayette head coach Gene Anderson. “Now this year, he started to learn to get back more and play both offense and defense. Really, we saw a huge transformation for him just from the start of the year.”

F: Osvaldo Arelleno (Lafayette, Sophomore)

One of just two sophomores on the EAGLE’s All-Area Team, Arenello’s production actually dipped a little bit from a freshman season in which he also started for the Commodores. Regardless, he’s the team’s top playmaker, despite just being a sophomore.

“Osvaldo become a playmaker and more of a team player as the team progressed,” Anderson said. “When you play forward and you’re the team’s playmaker, you can start to do things on your own to make things happen. But he got to the point where he incorporated more people into his attacking play, which also gets him some better looks.”

MF: Spencer Norris (Oxford, Senior)

“One thing we struggled with at times this season was being creative up top. But Spencer and Luke kind of developed a dynamic of working off each other really well as the season progressed. Those two, their chemistry kind of peaked right in the first round of the playoffs which was really fun.”

MF: Hollis Gaines (Lafayette, Junior)

Gaines is the Commodore nerd, in a way that’s the most positive to his head coach. He’s not the loudest player out there, but he’s always studied the game, likely more than any other player on this list, according to Anderson.

“Hollis is our smartest player. He studies every opponent that we have and watches a tremendous amount of film. It’s almost like having another coach on the field,” Anderson said. “He’ll see things that even I don’t sometimes. Not a really vocal leader, but he can see things most of the kids don’t.”

MF: Joel Sandoval (Oxford, Sophomore)

“At the start of the season, honestly I wasn’t really sure how much playing time he would get,” Sabatier said. “With Luke being injured and a handful of guys out of town or hurt, he stepped up and by the end of the season he had earned a starting position. Being a sophomore, we’re definitely excited about how he’ll continue to grow.”

MF: Max Mobley (Oxford, Senior)

“Max was one of the reasons our midfield controlled so many of the games we played. He has a knowledge of the game and he’s one of the most competitive dudes I’ve ever coached,” Sabatier said. “As a senior, we definitely saw him grow in leadership and in maturity. He was the lead guy to teach the younger kids that how we practice is the way we have to play.”

CB: Jake Moore (Lafayette, Senior)

Moore had barely ever touched a soccer ball when he started playing in 7th grade. He’s probably the one guy that the Charger coaches would single out as having the biggest growth over the course of his high school career.

“He’s so dynamic and one of our hardest working kids,” Sabatier said. “He just grew and grew and grew and by his senior year it really amazed me with what he could do.”

CB: Edward Brown (Oxford, Senior)****

CB: Jakyland Jones (Lafayette, Senior)

“Jakyland’s senior year was definitely the best he’s ever had. He has this unique ability to win the ball and somehow keep it at his feet, even though he’s kind of dribbling through people. It’s just the strangest thing. And he’s a really big, physical kid that just does not like getting beat.”

GK: Coker Scott (Oxford, Junior) 

Oxford rotated goalkeepers for much of the early season. By the start of 2020, Coker Scott had earned the full-time role.

“It was his consistency and decision making, those improved so much which is what lead him to be the guy there at the end of the season. Him being a junior helps us next year. Defensively, we’ll miss Edward of course, but I’m excited about the defense we bring back and Coker is a big part of that.”

Flex: Spencer Tosh (Oxford, Senior), Ben Adams (Lafayette, Senior)