2017 TELEGRAM ALL-AREA BOYS' SOCCER: A senior season of saves for Southern Nash's Price
By SAMUEL EVERS
Friday, December 22, 2017
There is one play in particular from this season that sticks out in Brannon Price’s mind.
Against rival Wilson Fike in a tight game, two opponents appeared to have the senior Southern Nash goalie beat, bearing down on Price in a two-on-one breakaway.
With no Firebirds defenders in sight, the Fike player on the right made the proper play, a cross-field pass to his teammate streaming down from the left wing.
Initially caught out of position, Price made the instinctual play, quickly recovering to try and get as much of himself as possible between the ball and the net.
Price lunged, flashing his hands in the air right as Fike’s striker teed off: ball met glove and the shot attempt sailed over the goal post. The Firebirds went on to win that game by one, that athletic save the resounding moment.
“My recovery time was fast, but that was just right place, right time,” Price said. “It was the luckiest save I’ve ever made in my life.”
With a little bit of luck, a dose of talent, and an endearing love for the game not all that common in football-crazed North Carolina, Price made many a game changing play this year, drawing the praise of coaches around the Big East.
During the season, he helped his Firebirds to an 11-6-2 regular season record, a berth in the conference tournament title game and a state tournament appearance.
Since, he’s been named to the all-conference team, the all-region team and was voted by the conference coaches as the Big East Defensive Player of the Year.
He’s also the Telegram’s 2017 All-Area Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year.
All of these accolades for Price, who turned 17 this past September, have been earned from his stake in net, as the Firebirds’ field director and last stand against opposing offenses.
But had it not been for a few moments of unexpected opportunity as a junior, all the keeper business might never have happened.
His first two years, spent on junior varsity with now-head coach Carlos Barron, Price, with his notable speed, was a striker.
In 2016, Price moved up to the varsity team the same time Barron was promoted. Entering the season, the coach all but had his goalie position decided, but an ineligibility issue with the presumed starter meant the position was suddenly wide open.
That’s when the suggestions started coming in.
“Some of the guys on the team vouched for Brannon, said he could play keeper,” Barron recalled. “That impressed me because I hadn’t heard anything about it. I coached him for two years, he played striker, put a lot of goals in the net. I was looking for him to score.”
A soccer player since his early years, Price, with his dad, Ritchie, as coach, initially picked up the sport as an offseason workout for baseball. But almost immediately, the second hand sport left the bigger first impression.
More than a decade later, between the town leagues, recreation leagues and indoor leagues, it’s soccer year round for Brannon and his little brother, Peyton, with hardly a moment in the Price household free from the familiar bounce of a soccer ball.
A middle infielder in baseball, the goalie position had come fairly naturally to Brannon at various points growing up, so he felt confident in his prospects after the news that the position was up for grabs.
“I was like, ‘Well, I’ve played goalie for travel season. I’ve played in rec. I’ll do it if you want me to,’” Price said. “He put me in goal and I did good that game, and he was just kept me in.”
And so it was settled, for half the season, at least. Price actually got hurt in net during that junior year in a game against Wilson Hunt, when a striker on the other team accidently spiked Price’s leg, the end result leaving his ankle in “the shape of a potato.”
In his place stepped a freshman keeper, who held control of the position for the rest of the year. But when action this past fall got cranking, Barron said, the right thing to do was to open the job of goalie back up.
“This year it was opened up again -- best player gets it,” the coach said. “Brannon just took ownership of it. Always where he needed to be, always saying the right things. You need a keeper that’s vocal. He’s that.”
A few months and a senior season of memories later, Price, who hopes to continue his athletic career at N.C. Wesleyan College while joining its Army ROTC program, then go overseas “to help people that can’t help themselves,” seems to have his future planned down to a science.
But even for someone so punctual with life after high school, it can be fun to look back on the recent past, serving as an important piece while playing his sport of choice.
“Playing goalie this past year, I can’t explain it. It goes in slow motion,” Price said. “Every game you win by one or two, you realize, ‘If I hadn’t made that one last save things would be different.’ It’s just my favorite spot. I loved it.”
2017 ALL-AREA SOCCER TEAM
BRANNON PRICE,SR., GOALIE, SOUTHERN NASH: Price registered four shutouts this season.
JUSTIN VAZQUEZ, SR., FORWARD, SOUTHERN NASH: Vazquez led the Firebirds with 11 goals, also assisting on four scores.
CARLOS GARCIA, JR., MIDFIELDER, SOUTHERN NASH: Garcia added six goals for the Firebirds and a team-high seven assists.
GUSTAVO VELASQUEZ, SR., MIDFIELDER, ROCKY MOUNT: The Gryphons were led by 10 goals from Velasquez.
DEMETRIUS MORTON, SR., MIDFIELDER, ROCKY MOUNT: While Morton did find the net five times for Rocky Mount, his 10 assists were a team-high.
JASON MICHAELS, SR.. FORWARD, NORTHERN NASH: Michaels finished his career with the Knights with an eight goal season.
THOMAS BOYETTE, SR., FORWARD, ROCKY MOUNT ACADEMY: Boyette finished the season with an even 13 goals and 13 assists.
JONATHAN STALLINGS, SR., FAITH CHRISTIAN: Stallings split time between the soccer pitch and the football field this past fall. In his final season, Stallings posted 13 goals and five assists for the Patriots.
ERIC MENDOZA, SO., MIDFIELDER, SOUTHERN NASH
EZEKIEL GONZALEZ, JR., FORWARD, SOUTHERN NASH
DAVID VAZQUEZ, JR., FORWARD, SOUTHERN NASH
ALEX FOOTE, SR., MIDFIELDER, ROCKY MOUNT
ALEX PHILIPS, SR., MIDFIELDER, NORTHERN NASH
MERCER BOYETTE, JR., FORWARD, ROCKY MOUNT ACADEMY