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Thomas' record season leads GAC to title

Soccer players who score just a handful of goals during the season may answer this question quickly - what was your favorite goal of the season?

It may take a little more thought for someone like Greater Atlanta Christian star Chris Thomas, who scored 53 this past season. It would be understandable if the answer took some thought.

But the speedy forward doesn't hesitate to respond with the season's best goal. And it isn't even one he scored.

Fellow senior Aldyn Royes did the honors in a 4-1 state finals win over Westminster, and it was the only one of the title game's four goals that Thomas didn't score.

"Aldyn's state championship goal, definitely," said Thomas, the Daily Post's boys soccer player of the year. "It came right after we scored (to tie the score 1-1) and it just happened so fast. I played the ball to Aldyn and he dribbled past two or three defenders. It was just nice."

That swift counterattack goal also was indicative of GAC's Class AA/A state championship season. Even when Thomas wasn't scoring the goals himself, he played a huge role in the offense. Whether it was directly setting up a teammate - he also had 14 assists - or simply drawing packs of opposing defenses to free up someone else.

Despite the constant attention, Thomas still found ways to score. Or make sure a teammate did, like in the state finals when his perfect pass set Royes up for a breakaway.

"The thing that's always impressed us is that he scores in every game," GAC boys coach Thom Jacquet said. "He scores against good teams. He scores against double and triple teams. He always found a way to get it done. And he got it done with passing the ball, too."

Thomas' efforts gave GAC its second state title in three seasons, while giving him even more school records. His record-breaking season total upped his career tally to 143 goals, which easily shattered the old Spartan mark of 89 set by striker Sam Arthur.

"He's unmarkable one-on-one," St. Pius coach Killebrew Bailey said. "He's got it all. He can go to goal with either foot, he plays well off others, he can come back off the ball. He can do pretty much anything he wants to do. Everybody knows he's the guy, and he still scores. That's the mark of a special talent."

The whopping goal total also leads some to question how many of those he scores in mismatches. The answer is not many, Jacquet said.

GAC intentionally plays a tough schedule out of area, so most blowouts were area matches. And Thomas rarely played in the second half of any of those.

He also had some of his best outings against the toughest opponents, including the three-goal final against Westminster. He scored two goals against AAAA state champ Marist and three last year against AAA state champ St. Pius.

"He doesn't bag his goals against lesser opponents," Jacquet said.

"The people I play with (in club soccer) from AAAAA (schools), they know what I can do," Thomas said. "So it doesn't bother me."

That attitude typically transferred over to the soccer field as well. Constant defensive attention and physical defense didn't bait Thomas into cards, confrontations with referees or retaliation.

That's a stark contrast from Arthur, an equally talented forward now playing at South Carolina. A physical and vocal player, Arthur collected cards a few years back like he was a poker dealer.

"Chris' attitude and demeanor on the field were incredible, you never saw him get angry or upset," Jacquet said. "He just played the game. I don't think he ever spoke to another player or referee the whole time he was here. He just played the game."

And he scored an amazing number of goals along the way. But most importantly, he led his team to another state championship.

"At the beginning of the season, with everybody coming back and Aldyn getting better, I thought I wouldn't score as much (this season)," said Thomas, who scored 40 goals as a junior. "But if you get the ball to me, I'm going to try to score. I just try to do what I can for the team."

Player of the Year: Chris Thomas, GAC, Sr.

Had 53 goals and 14 assists for Class AA/A state champions

Coaches of the Year:

Stan Carpenter, Collins Hill

Led Eagles to Class AAAAA state title

Thom Jacquet, GAC

Led Spartans to Class AA/A state title

First team

Michael Coleman, Parkview, Sr.

Anchored 8-AAAAA champs' defense

Eric Fletcher, GAC, Sr.

10 goals, 14 assists

Juan Giraldo, Collins Hill, Sr.

5 goals, 2 assists

Kofi Gyawu, Parkview, Sr.

24 goals, 7 assists

Zack Johnson, GAC, Sr.

8 goals, 18 assists

Nicky MacKain, Collins Hill, Sr.

Anchored state champs' defense

Malcolm Miller, Collins Hill, Jr.

16 goals, 3 assists

Adam Schraudenbach, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.

Lions' top defender

Andrew Wallingford, Collins Hill, Sr.

Goalie gave up 13 goals in 22 matches

Theo Yang, Brookwood, Sr.

26 goals, 11 assists

Walker Zimmerman, Brookwood, Soph.

2 goals, 8 assists

Second team

Chris Duvall, Wesleyan, Jr.

Jack Falle, Parkview, Soph.

Luis Huertas, Dacula, Sr.

Juan Hurtado, Collins Hill, Sr.

Ado Junuzovic, Dacula, Sr.

Ryan King, Norcross, Jr.

Richard Klemm, GAC, Sr.

Durham Knight, Parkview, Sr.

Greg MacKenzie, Wesleyan, Jr.

Jonny Mercado, Providence, Sr.

Bayan Vojdani, Peachtree Ridge, Sr.