Houston County's Hunter Henry is the All-Middle Georgia Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
With twins, there is competition.
Hunter and Heath Henry each scored 19 goals for the Houston County boys soccer team last season, with Hunter managing four more assists. Both are headed to Mercer with a focus on academics, namely mechanical engineering.
Heath graduated one spot ahead of Hunter last month.
But Hunter does get another win, as The Telegraph’s All-Middle Georgia Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
It was a season of adjustment for Henry and the Bears, who went into the season with a new head coach and without a primary go-to scorer, as the Bears have had in recent seasons.
And there were some growing pains for the Bears.
“We knew our defense was going to be solid, one of the more solid defenses in the state, because they had Tim Freeman coming back,” Houston County head coach Stephen Edwards said, noting the multiple All-Middle Georgia pick. “And they had a really great goalie (returning All-Middle Georgia pick Declan Furlough) coming back.
“The question was who was going to put the ball in the back of the net. How’s that going to work?”
With the graduation of scorer and All-Middle Georgia Boys Soccer Player of the Year for 2016 Cristian Medina, goals had to come from somewhere.
“It was like, ‘get the ball to Medina,’ ” Edwards said of 2016. “And there was a lot of ball watching.”
And early in the season, the Bears struggled — despite winning — to find a clear offensive identity. Edwards hadn’t coached Hunter or Heath Henry.
“I knew that (they) would be our best scoring options,” Edwards said. “I hoped, anyway. That's what I heard, that was my expectation going in.”
Hunter Henry, like his teammates, earned a few admonitions about playing more defense. That was part of Henry finding a more specific role as the season progressed.
“It was definitely more on us this year,” Henry said. “Me and my brother were, I would say, counted on to do a lot more scoring. We had three freshman starting at one point.”
There was a tie with Colquitt County, a tough loss to a quality Etowah team and then 2-0 loss a few weeks later at Tift County.
That was the loss that tightened the focus of Henry and the Bears.
“We got beat by Tift County, a team we should have handled,” Edwards said. “He didn't play defense that game, he didn't step back. I told him in the nicest way possible, I told all of them, he has to play team defense. I saw him step back a whole lot more and win that ball.”
Houston County then won eight in a row, with six straight shutouts.
Henry, and his brother, assumed more scoring responsibility while developing more of a complete game, increasing his load on defense, which was already a team strength.
“Hunter was forced this year to step up,” Edwards said of the position change to center-forward. “I think he was forced to step up his game in ways maybe he even didn’t know he could.”
Edwards said he knew there were skeptics regarding Henry — both of them, actually — and an ability to assume a scoring role.
“There were some doubters as far as us creating goal scorers and opportunities,” Edwards said. “There were some games where that was the case, but more often than not, either he or his brother put the ball in the back of the net.”
Medina scored 24 goals last year as the primary striker, and Edwards can only imagine what 2018 would be like if Hunter, and his brother, weren’t done in 2017.
“This year, they had to play that part,” Edwards said. “The first six or seven games, not so much. We had to look for players who normally didn’t score. Once we got through a third of the season, I think they kinda both looked at each other.
“I know I looked at them. ‘Guys, you’re our offense.’ ”
The Bears won the Region 1-6A championship, moving up from Class 5A, but the season ended with a 7-3 loss to Centennial in the second round of the GHSA Tournament.
“We knew coming into this season that our team was not as skilled as we were last year, but we had hopes that we could go far,” Henry said. “I wanted to get to at least the Elite Eight. We did well.”
Centennial came to Freedom Field ready for the Bears.
“I was in mild depression, I guess you could say, the next couple days,” Henry said. “I got over it eventually. They came out hard. We didn't expect them to be as good as they were. They were very good.”
That might have been Henry’s final game on a team. He and Heath are both headed to Mercer for mechanical engineering, and playing for the Bears doesn’t appear to be an option.
Hunter said he’ll play club soccer at Mercer and that the college decision wasn’t about soccer.
“Our mom (Michelle) is huge on academics,” Henry said. “She knows how important academics is. I’m the same way. I want good grades. I know I’m not going to be playing soccer when I’m 30.
“At the end of the day, you've got to look at your future. What am I going to be doing? And you make a decision on that.”
Previous All-Middle Georgia selections this spring
All-Middle Georgia Boys Soccer Team
Player of the Year
Hunter Henry, Houston County
Coach of the Year
Stephen Edwards, Houston County
Taking over in late summer with a roster in transition and a jump in GHSA classification, Edwards led the Bears to another region title and a playoff win.
Alex Gelter, Northside, Sr.
The returning first-teamer, one-time second-teamer and three-year starter is the school record-holder for single-season goals (16) and career assists (52)
Hunter Henry, Houston County, Sr.
The center-forward led shared the team lead in goals with brother Heath with 19, and he had 27 assists for the team lead.
Zane Holliman, Mary Persons
The returning two-time first-teamer, a transfer from Stratford, earned Region 2-4A honors despite missing time with an injury. He had 13 goals and two assists.
Nick Maiorana, Mount de Sales, Sr.
The two-time second-teamer scored 28 goals with two assists to again anchor the Cavs' offense, is headed to Cornell.
James Davis, Mary Persons, Sr.
The returning second-teamer led the 15-3-1 Bulldogs had 19 goals, and also often anchored he defense in an all-Region 2-4A season.
Heath Henry, Houston County, Sr.
The attacking mid had 19 goals and 23 assists, helping a young Bears team reach the second round of the playoffs.
Max Wilkins, Veterans, Jr.
The returning honorable mention selection led the Warhawks in goals and set a program single-season record with 30, giving him 57 in the past two seasons. He was Region 1-5A's top offensive player.
Chase Winters, Upson-Lee, Soph.
The Region 2-4A offensive player of the year and team MVP had nine goals and six assists for the 14-6 Knights, alternating between mid and forward.
Tim Freeman, Houston County, Sr.
The returning first-teamer and one-time second-teamer was a four-year starter and two-year team captain, leading a defense that allowed 15 goals, earning Region 1-6A defender of the year honors.
Shane King, Mary Persons, Sr.
The versatile defender helped the Bulldogs to a .78 goals against average and had five goals and four assists, earning first-team honors in Region 2-4A.
John Armstrong, Upson-Lee, Soph.
The first-team Region 2-4A pick keyed the Knights to 10 shutouts and a .65 goals against average.
Michael Sordillo, Veterans, Sr.
The returning first-teamer had six goals, but was the lone senior on defense and was the top defender in Region 1-5A.
Declan Furlough, Houston County, Sr.
The returning first teamer and one-time second-teamer allowed 14 goals, and his .38 goals against was in the Maxpreps top 10 nationally.
Bryce Garner, Lamar County, Sr.
Garner averaged a goal a game, 15 for the season, but suffered a late-season collarbone injury.
Jake Jamison, Stratford, Jr.
Jamison had six multi-goal games, with 19 goals and five assists for the Eagles.
Luke Spivey, Dublin, Sr.
Spivey helped the Irish to the Region 3-2A title and two playoff wins, and he graduated with the program record of 65 career goals.
Dane Wiggins, FPD, Sr.
The returning honorable mention selection had 15 goals and six assists to lead the Vikings in both categories.
Brett Galonczyk, MdS, Soph.
Galonczyk had four goals and nine assists, helping the Cavs drastically improve scoring while also playing some defense.
Austin Marfell, Houston County, Fr.
The youngster had 11 goals and six assists for the Bears, who won seven games by five goals or more.
Cameron Dobbs, Veterans, Soph.
Dobbs stepped into the starting role as the Warhawks moved up in class, and he scored six goals with two assists.
Andrew Musmanno, Veterans, Fr.
Musmanno stepped into the lineup of a team that stepped up a classification and scored two goals with four assists while helping the defense allow only 10 goals in eight region games.
Rhett Baucom, Upson-Lee, Soph.
Baucom played outside back, but was often into the attack, scoring four goals with five assists.
Luke Guillory, Mount de Sales, Sr.
The returning second-teamer has been the team's best defender for a few years, leading a young group in 2017 and scoring nine times with seven assists.
Tyler Knowles, Perry, Jr.
Knowles was the Region 2-4A defensive player of the year in a region that included Mary Persons and Upson-Lee.
Clayton Martin, Houston County, Jr.
Marfell scored three goals, thanks to some set pieces, but otherwise was a physical defender on a unit that gave up 15 goals.
Colin Thomas, Northside, Sr.
In only his second year of soccer, Thomas had 71 saves, including 18 in the Region 1-6A championship game.
All-Middle Georgia schedule
A look at the schedule for All-Middle Georgia teams to be released with the days the results will be posted on Macon.com and in The Telegraph:
June 22/23: Baseball
June 23/24: Girls Athlete of the Year
June 24/25: Boys Athlete of the Year