DECATUR -- The Decatur Bulldog soccer team had a stellar 2021 season, one of the best in several years. Three Bulldog players earned distinction in the 3A state tournament at Burns Park in North Little Rock on May 13, while eight Bulldogs made the 3A all-conference list this season.
The Decatur Bulldogs that made the 3A-1 all-conference list include Kenneth Barrios, Deegan Brooks, Braulio Echeverria, Marvin Gramajo, Steven Lucero, Andres Revolorio, Bryan Riuz and Poli Xiong.
Christian Ramirez, Carlos Hernandez and Emmauel Thao made the all-state soccer list this season.
Anyone who has attended a soccer match this year, either on the road or at home, noticed number 15 weaving in and out of the opposition players stealing the ball, clearing it downfield, or blocking a run on the net. Senior Emmanuel Thao is the backbone of the Bulldog defense. His defensive prowess caught the attention of several coaches in both the 3A-1 conference as well as the state 3A. During recent voting for the Arkansas All-Star Team, Thao received enough votes to land him the first alternate spot on the team. This translates into the fact that, should any one of the regular members not be able to participate, Thao gets that spot on the team. In addition to this honor, Thao was also named to the 3A All-State Tournament Team. Back in Decatur during the annual sports award program, Thao earned the Defensive Player of the Year award in soccer.
But it was not always just defensive play for Thao. On a few occasions, he was moved up to the offensive front line where he managed to make three goals this season.
Another senior who earned distinction on the offensive side was Carlos Hernandez. Like Thao, Carlos Hernandez was named to the 3A All-State team. He led the Bulldogs in scoring with 17 goals, including the one he made during the first-round state playoff match with Maumelle when he slipped the ball into the net, putting the cap on the win. Because of his hard work and dedication to the Bulldog soccer program, Carlos Hernandez earned the Most Valuable Player award, which he received during the sports awards program on May 18.
Following close behind in the points department was Roger Hernandez, who chalked up a total of 13 goals. For his efforts, he earned the Bulldog Offensive Player of the Year award.
Junior Christian Ramirez is the third and final member of the 2021 Decatur Bulldog soccer team to be named to the 3A All-State Team.
Other Bulldog soccer players earning awards during the sports awards program included Abel Gomez -- Bulldog Pride Award; Carlos Perez -- Sportsman of the Year (both seniors); Jetlee Xiong -- Team Player of the Year; and Anthony Hernandez -- Rookie of the Year.
Former three-year assistant coach Daniel Meyer was at the helm of the Bulldogs for his first head coaching job this season. Combined with assistant coach Grant Hutson, the Bulldogs enjoyed one of the best seasons in several years. The Bulldogs played an incredible 18-match schedule this year. When the dust on the field settled after the Harding Academy match in North Little Rock May 14, the Decatur Bulldogs ended their amazing season with 11 wins, six losses and one tie overall. The Bulldogs finished the 3A-1 conference race with nine wins, four losses and one tie for a second-place finish in the regular season behind Green Forest, which went on to take the state 3A championship match May 22 against Harding Academy, both the teams to which Decatur lost.
Decatur Bulldog soccer players scoring goals this season were Carlos Hernandez -- 17; Roger Hernandez -- 13; Barrios -- 6; Lucero -- 5; Ramirez -- 4; Thao -- 3; Revolorio -- 3; Ruiz -- 3; Gramajo -- 2; Perez -- 1; and Poli Xiong -- 1.