By John Wilbert/NEMS Daily Journal
AMORY – Even though his goal total was the highest in all four of MHSAA’s soccer classifications this past season, Zach Khima still thought he could score more.
“To be honest with you, I think I did leave a little bit on the table with just 57 goals,” the Amory High junior forward said after leading his team to the Class 4A state championship game and being named the 2010-11 Daily Journal Boys Player of the Year. “It’s still an honor to have 57 goals, though.”
It certainly is considering that he tallied that amount in just 25 matches and that he broke his school’s record that he had set the previous season by 22 goals.
“This year he scored in a lot of different ways,” said Amory High coach Nathan Clayton, who pointed out that Khima was often the reason his other Amory players scored goals because teams would focus on him. “He was very tough up top.
“He was great in the box. He scored several goals from outside the box. Anytime he got within 25-30 yards of the goal, he was a threat to score.”
But to understand why the Amory junior wasn’t satisfied with 57 goals, you have to first come to grips with his drive and determination to succeed.
“I’ve been starting since I was a young kid, right around 6, I guess you could say,” said Khima. “I was on my way with park and rec and then select really picked my game up a lot with all the coaches.
“Just select really, really helped me. It picked my game up. Because in select, I was told I couldn’t. When I came to high school, I was told I couldn’t.
“And when people say you can’t do something, it just makes me want to try even harder.”
With soccer in his blood – his Algerian father, Lamine Khima, played club soccer overseas and his French uncle, Fares Khima, has also played the game – you can expect him to be pushed and critiqued on almost a daily basis.
“Everything I know, he knows,” the 5-foot-10, 165-pound high school player said about his father’s guidance, “and there’s always room for improvement.”
He added, “Yeah, between him (his uncle) and my dad is pretty much where I got all my stuff.”
So you can see that the bar has been sight pretty high for him, even if some people have doubted his potential.
“They say you won’t last. There’s no way you can do this,” Khima said of his doubters. “Just certain things like that, it just makes me want to try 10 times harder.”
While at the same time Khima isn’t afraid to speak of those who doubted him, he won’t leave those select and high schools coaches who give him an opportunity to play and shine unmentioned.
“I give a bunch of the credit to select and all the coaches that gave me an opportunity,” said the 17 year old, before rattling off six coaches’ names.
With that being said, who’s going to stop a young player who can ignore a defender entirely when going for a ball, almost as if it was just himself and a teammate kicking the ball around?
“When I see the ball on the other side of the field and I’m running – let’s say the ball is on the right and I’m running from the left – and there’s a defender in front of me, I’m not even paying attention to the defender,” said Khima, who also happens to play wide receiver and free safety for the Amory High football team. “I’m looking straight at the ball.
“When I see the ball coming, it’s mine. There’s no doubt about it. It’s going to be my ball.”
Khima will no doubt have several choices when it comes down to selecting a college soccer program to play for.
“There’s many schools I’m interested in. There’s many schools that are interested in me,” said the high school junior, who, at this point, doesn’t wish to disclose any of the schools that are recruiting him or which programs he may be leaning to. “I haven’t made my commitment yet.
“I have a little bit to think about. This summer it will probably really hit me.”
And barring injury, the Amory player should continue to get better.
“Every chance I get, I’m lifting weights or running, doing some kind of agility drill or anything that I can do to make myself better,” he said. “Because I know there’s always room for improvement.”
Even with a promising future ahead of him, Khima doesn’t let that overshadow the aspect of playing for his current teams.
“I’m not in that much of a rush,” he said of his college decision. “I’m looking for next year to have two state championships: one in select and one this coming year in high school.
“We saw what we can do this year in high school, and there’s no doubt in my mind that we can do it next year.”
Contact John Wilbert at 678-1572 or firstname.lastname@example.org.