Victor Rodriguez

Victor Rodriguez, who scored against Lafayette on Dec. 19, has also been named Suwannee’s top player against Santa Fe.

LIVE OAK — In the last game before the holiday break Suwannee beat Wakulla 2-0 on Dec. 20 to take first place in the district standings.

Both the Bulldogs and War Eagles were undefeated in district play entering the matchup, and C.J. Joyner and Jonah Wegner each scored a goal, while goalie Zack Lopez collected 12 saves.

The Bulldogs also beat previously undefeated Lafayette 6-2 on Dec. 19. Joyner had two goals in that game and Ian Willis, Victor Rodriguez, Jase Kelley and Matthew Gill got one goal each.

Rodriguez credited his teammates with helping him score.

“They make me, they are there for passes, to create movement, and to create goal-scoring opportunities,” he said.

In district, Suwannee is 4-0, Wakulla is 4-1 while Gadsden County is third at 2-2. No other team has won a district game. The Bulldogs face Gadsden on Jan. 14 but Wakulla isn’t on the Suwannee schedule again. Overall, Wakulla is 10-1-1 and Suwannee is 7-2-2.

Grayson Gill leads Suwannee scorers with six goals while Joyner has risen to second in team scoring with five. Lopez now has 124 saves for the Bulldogs.

SHS coach Chris Joyner said he has seen Lopez make some outstanding plays, and one in a 1-0 win against Santa Fe on Dec. 5 stood out.

“It was a tough battle,” coach Joyner said. “But on all spectrums from offense to midfield to defense our boys stepped up against a tough, physical Santa Fe team. We missed several opportunities, but we won.

“Zack had some tremendous saves. It was uncanny. One was from about eight yards out with a Santa Fe player cutting and shooting, and I saw Zack flying through the air; how he saw it and reacted to it blew my mind.”

Lopez credited his “vision on the field, and being able to direct guys on the field,” as top aspects of his game. And he is working on his dives.

“I’m trying to get more explosive on my dives to the left side,” he said. “It’s harder going to the left side, getting out as far and as quick to the goal post as I can. It’s easier for me as a righty to get to the right post.”

Joyner picks a player of the game for each contest and chose Rodriguez for the Santa Fe win.

“But if I had to pick a defensive player it would be very tough because all five of my defensive players played lights out,” Joyner said. “We shut them down on the outsides, the middle, and the only time they got an opportunity was when we screwed up a pass on the inside.”

Joyner said that thru the course of the season, he’ll mix up formations.

“Formations can change game to game; every game we’re going to run a different formation, and right now we run two formations,” he said. “I’m going to introduce another formation to the team and see what they think. These young men are capable of running any formation; it’s just more with what they’re comfortable with. And they’re very comfortable with a 4-4-2, but a 4-4-2 will only get you so far. There’s times you have to change up so you can get more into the attack. Right now, if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Jeff Shourds is a sports writer for the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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