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Boys Athlete of the Week: Gainesville's Ricardo Gomez

Red Elephant senior recorded four goals, three assists against Cedar Shoals

POSTED: March 26, 2014 5:09 p.m.

Rick Howard knows his Gainesville boys soccer team features a wide variety of talented players this season, a group looking to help win the Red Elephants their first state championship since 2010.

It’s a group that is so deep, the Gainesville coach admitted that he has been rotating more players into games than what he has done in the past.

That’s what makes last Tuesday’s performance by Ricardo Gomez so special, and in a way, almost unfathomable.

Despite Howard attempting to rotate players around in an attempt to build depth for the future years, Gomez notched four goals and assisted on three others in the Red Elephants’ 9-0 rout of Region 8-AAAAA foe Cedar Shoals in Athens.

For his performance, Gomez is The Times’ Boys Athlete of the Week.

“(Gomez’s) performance, it’s not just about the four goals he scored, it’s the way he scored them,” Howard said. “He’s scored (this season) some of the prettiest goals I’ve ever seen in my high school career.”

Gomez’s four-goal, three-assist performance last week isn’t alone among the early season’s top performances. The four-year starter for Gainesville also notched four goals in a blowout win over Salem on March 4.

Performances like that have it easy to figure out who Gainesville’s leader is this season. As a four-year member of the varsity team, Gomez has accepted the “quarterback” role, according to Howard, putting an emphasis on making sure his teammates are prepared for upcoming games and challenges that await.

“I have picked up the (leadership) role,” Gomez said. “Having the experience allows me to guide them the right way. My teammates, they ask me all kinds of questions.

“I have accepted the role. I feel great.”

Part of being the on-field leader for Gainesville is knowing when it is his time to score, or when it’s his teammates’ time to attack the goal. Regardless, Gomez does both very well.

“As center midfielder, he’ll always be in a position to distribute,” Howard said. “But some games, based on what we need, he’ll play more defensive, some he’ll distribute more and others he’ll just score.

“Ricardo knows what we need.”

Even though he’s in a position to decide on how he needs to a play a certain game based on what the competition is doing on a given night, Gomez said he was still a little surprised when he finished last week’s game with four goals and three assists.

“It caught me by surprise, but I really owe it all to my team,” Gomez said. “Without them, I don’t think I would’ve scored that many goals. They played major parts getting the ball there.”

Gomez is a major reason why Gainesville is off to a 9-1-1 start this season, even after losing the majority of its preseason workouts due to snowy and icy conditions. The start has bolstered the Red Elephants into the state’s No. 4 ranking in Class AAAAA.

It’s a start to the season that includes just one loss — a 1-0 defeat at home to top-ranked McIntosh High. Since that loss on March 1 at City Park Stadium, Gainesville has gone on a terrorizing run through both region and non-region play, winning each of their past seven games.

During that run, which includes Tuesday night’s 10-0 win over Forsyth Central, the Red Elephants are outscoring their competition 49-4.

“It’s a good start; what we expected to do,” Howard said. “Luckily, the ball has bounced our way a few times.”

The Red Elephants know it won’t get any easier from here. With six games remaining in the regular season, Gainesville will play four teams with winning records, including a pair of undefeated teams in Johnson and Clarke Central.

Being battle-tested near the end of the regular season and heading into the state playoffs could be a positive, though. The Red Elephants see it as a way to prepare for the tough journey through the playoffs and toward a potential state championship.

“The way I set up the schedule, it is going to be tough down the stretch, to close out the season,” Howard said. “Flowery Branch is coming around, then we get tougher with Heritage, which is traditionally very good.

“Then after spring break, we’ve got Johnson in the rivalry game and then Clarke Central, for what I hope is something to play for at that time.”

Through the closing stretch, expect Gomez, who already has Division I offers from College of Charleston, Furman and Georgia State, to be the go-to leader for Gainesville and for the rest of the Red Elephants to follow suit.

“I like that we’re always looking to get better,” Howard said. “What I like is they get along fairly well. We have roles, leaders, but there is opportunity for guys to step up.”


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