By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
Rafael Vidana had his best game on high school soccer’s biggest stage, the state championship match.
Pontotoc’s junior forward scored three goals and recorded three assists to lead the Warriors to a 6-2 victory against West Lauderdale for the MHSAA Class 4A state championship at Clinton High School stadium.
Vidana scored 10 of his team-high 29 goals in the postseason.
“That shows you how much he elevated his play in the playoffs,” Pontotoc coach Michael Loden said. “He turned it on and hit another gear.”
For helping lead the Warriors to a 19-3-1 record and the school’s first state soccer championship, Vidana has been named the 2013 Daily Journal Player of the Year.
“I just wanted to come out with my teammates and take care of business,” Vidana said of his performance in the championship match. “It was the championship; it was unbelievable.”
Loden believes Vidana had one of his better playoff games in the team’s 3-1 road win against Florence. He scored one goal, but had the two assists on Brayden Timmons’ goals.
“They clamped down on Rafael, so he had assists,” Loden said. “That’s the way he plays. He does whatever it takes to score. If it doesn’t open up he gets it to somebody to score.
“He’s the kind of player who makes everybody else better.”
‘a great midfield’
Vidana, who recorded 12 assists this season, takes pride in being a team player.
“If you don’t have a great midfield you’re not going to have a season like I had,” he said. “I had a great midfield up top.”
Following the game, an excited Vidana hoisted the championship trophy as he sat of the shoulders of his celebrating teammates.
“He’s not a showboat. He enjoys playing and he enjoys the attention, but in a good way,” Loden said.
Vidana said the bus ride home after winning the championship was “the shortest ride ever” for him.
“I had a feeling that we’d leave it all on the field; we didn’t want to regret anything,” he said. “Everybody played hard and did what they had to do.
“It was a great, great, great day.”