JASPER — Tied atop the district standings, the Hamilton County and Lafayette boys soccer teams know what’s on the horizon.

They meet at LHS on Jan. 7, the first game for both after the holiday break.

“We will try to keep the kids in shape, keep them playing, keep them going, we have a couple tournaments lined up this holiday break, in Georgia,” HCHS coach Horacio Perez said. “It keeps them motivated and keeps them going so when we come back we’ll be ready to go the remainder of the season.”

Hamilton is 9-0-2, while the Hornets lost their first game of season last week to Suwannee 6-2.

Hamilton was scheduled to play the Bulldogs on Dec. 17, but a tornado warning forced cancellation.

Perez said both teams missed a chance to “prepare,” but the coaches were on the phone attempting to reschedule.

Helping the Trojans to their undefeated start is goalkeeper Roman Perez, who has recorded two shutouts in his last three games, where the team has gone 1-0-2. The Trojans tied the Hornets 0-0 on Dec. 10.

“We prepared for that game a lot to win,” Roman Perez said. “But Mayo knows how to play soccer, we just have to play harder next time. I made a lot of good plays, but I have to give credit to my defense, they shut it down.”

The Trojans tied Class 3A P.K. Yonge 2-2 last week and Roman Perez said the team is good at playing schools in a higher class.

“We’re beating and tying them, I could have done better on both of those goals,” he said. “I think they shouldn’t have scored at all, but I guess I wasn’t ready, and I need to be more alert.”

With the successful start to the season, Roman Perez has high goals for the year and said the Trojans are playing well.

“I’d really like to win the district championship, but our main goal is to make it to state,” he said. “Coach has been pushing communication, and I feel I’ve done a good job making sure that happens in practices and games. Since the beginning of the year, we’ve come together more as a team; rather than an individual playing a sport, we’ve come together like the Hamilton County boys soccer team.”

While Roman Perez has played a key role on the back end of the Trojans’ start, midfielder Omar Lopez is one of Hamilton’s top scoring threats, netting 12 goals this season.

Lopez gives a good rating for the season so far.

“Very high, all the years I’ve played we’ve never been undefeated,” he said.

Lopez, a sophomore, said “trusting” his teammates is important and he emulates aspects of good players to form his style, instead of limiting his style to one thing.

“He’s a great all-around player,” Horacio Perez said.

Another one of the Trojans’ key players, according to coach Perez is junior Keerin Swayze, who plays defense and center back.

“They stay humble and help their team stay together,” Perez said of Swayze, Lopez and Roman Perez. “We have more kids like that in our group; hungry to go get the championship.”

Swayze said the Trojans’ season has been a “10 out of 10” so far, adding his goals are to beat LHS and make a run through districts and into the playoffs.

For that to happen, though, Horacio Perez said Hamilton still has a lot of work to do.

“We have the kids trusting the process and the coaches,” he said. “It’s paid off, they work together, even when it’s in the offseason when coaches aren’t there.

“They have a goal, and it’s to win the district championship, and there’s a common bond between them, they want it and it shows on the record. There’s a couple things we could have done the last couple games, but like Roman said, we’re facing bigger schools and holding our own. We’re getting ready for the playoffs and we’re hoping to make a long run.”

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

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