While the Cartersville boys soccer team came up short in its bid to win a third consecutive Region 5-AAAA championship, the Canes did manage to return to the second round of the Class 4A state playoffs this past season.
But like in 2018, the Sweet 16 proved sour, as Cartersville suffered a 1-0 defeat to Southeast Whitfield on a late goal.
Even still, the Canes, despite finishing 8-8, had by far the best overall season of the four Bartow County programs — highlighted by their 5-1 win over Madison County in the opening round of the state tournament.
Woodland showed vast improvement in several areas, leading to a final record of 7-5-3. The Wildcats finished 4-4 in Region 7-AAAAA with wins over Hiram, East Paulding, Paulding County and rival Cass.
Meanwhile, the Colonels took a step backward after a couple of very successful years. With standout Anthony Robledo having graduated, Cass struggled mightily to score goals.
Adairsville had a similar issue. At one point during the year, the Tigers went eight consecutive games with no more than four goals allowed but won just two of those contests.
It should be noted that the honorees below represent the entirety of the list of nominees named by each individual coach.
Player of the Year: Pedro Ghanem, Cartersville junior
Despite scoring exactly half the number of goals he had in 2018, Ghanem remained the team’s most important offensive piece. Part of drop off in goals came from his role being slightly different as a junior. He was asked to drop deeper to carry the ball through the midfield, spending more of his energy distributing the ball and not necessarily finishing off the move. Ghanem still scored 17 goals and increased his number of assists to eight. With a more experienced team returning in 2020, Ghanem might be able to adjust back into the role that saw him land among the top goalscorers in Class 4A during his sophomore campaign. Even if that doesn’t change, Ghanem's impact on the Canes will certainly still be there, as he heads towards a possible three-peat in regards to this honor.
Ethan Eckert, Cartersville junior — Eckert was much busier as a junior than as a sophomore with the teams Cartersville played putting him under greater pressure in 2019. He managed just one shutout and opponents scored an average of two goals a game, but he only allowed a single tally in several contests. Cartersville head coach D.J. Paradis said Eckert made roughly 8-10 saves per game and remains a “big-game keeper.”
Giovanni Carrion, Cartersville junior — One of several Canes to take on a larger role and subsequently more responsibility this past spring, Carrion often had the unenviable job of tracking the other team’s fastest forward. His ability to mark those types of players showed a level of natural athletic ability and incredible instincts. He should return for his senior season as one of the best — if not the best — defenders in the county.
Stephen Knight, Adairsville junior — Knight will enter his senior campaign with just one full year of varsity experience under his belt. During his junior season, Knight saw extensive playing time at fullback for the Tigers. He and the rest of his defensive teammates worked hard to keep Adairsville competitive in a number of games, even when the Tigers were outmatched. Coach Jayme Laney said Knight received a scholar-athlete award.
Kevin Moreno, Woodland sophomore — Moreno made the all-county team as a freshman and returns following another solid season. He showcased his versatility for the Wildcats, spending time at forward, midfielder and defender over the course of the year. According to Woodland head coach Ed Guse, Moreno "has good ball control, finished well, but the most important quality I see is that he plays for the team."
Ronny Ramirez, Woodland senior — The lone senior to earn a nomination from his coach, Ramirez capped his Woodland career with another solid season defensively for the Wildcats. One of the team's captains, Ramirez earned DTN honorable-mention honors as a junior. Over the past two seasons, Guse said he's watched Ramirez grow into a great defender, saying, "He became one of the best defenders, playing hard and providing security in the back."
Alex Rios, Cartersville freshman — Freshmen often only have one speed, and that sometimes gets them into trouble. Despite battling some injury issues, Rios proved to be a dynamic, energetic asset in the Cartersville midfield. When he was healthy, the Canes simply played better. Playing in his first postseason match, Rios was the liveliest player on the field. He’s got the potential to be an absolute star moving forward.
Isai Romero, Cass sophomore — Romero played every minute between the posts this season for the Colonels. After gaining valuable experience as a freshman, he elevated his play to another level in 2019. His recorded stats of three shutouts and 73 total saves don't fully encapsulate his value to Cass. A team captain despite his age, Romero was named team MVP. Coach E.J. Kukoly said Romero is already among the "elite of the elite."
Joel Zazueta, Cartersville sophomore — If Rios needs to see an example of how to conserve some energy while remaining a potent threat on the offensive attack, he should look no further than Zazueta. A perfect example of knowing when to pick the right moments to drive forward, Zazueta made sure he had the energy needed to finish off a foray into the box, as evidenced by his six goals from his midfield position.