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The 2021 soccer season is in the books, and several Paris Wildcats and North Lamar Panthers were honored for their stellar seasons with All-District honors.

Leading the way was Wildcat Miguel Rivera, who was crowned district MVP. Over the course of the season, Rivera tallied up a jaw dropping 53 goals to go along with nine assists.

“That has to be a school record,” Paris head coach Clint Cobb said of Rivera’s goal total. “Last year he had the most I’d ever seen, and that was in a year that was cut short because of Covid. He blew past that this year.”

As versatile a scorer as you’ll find, Rivera could score with either foot in any way imaginable.

“After last year, every team knew about him and knew what a threat he was,” Cobb said. “They still couldn’t stop him.”

Earning Offensive Player of the Year honors was senior Wildcat Edwin Gonzalez, who finished with 33 goals.

“Edwin is as skilled as they come,” Cobb said. “He’s terrific on the ball, and not many people are able to strip it from him. He’s fast and strong and does a lot of things at an extremely high level.”

Complementing the offensive award winner is the Defensive Player of the Year, Wildcat Payton Fowler.

Fowler was nothing short of a rock in the backfield for Paris, and was exceptional at stripping even the best opponents of the ball.

“Payton is a very physical player,” Cobb said. “He’s a dynamic player on the back line. And he’s a really complete player too, because he’s good at so many things. He’s great at heading the ball, he’s a great passer — he can do it all.”

When the ball would get past Fowler and his brothers in arms on the back line, opposing offenses ran into another challenge: Goalie of the Year Luis Ibarra.

On the season, Paris only allowed 11 goals, and some of those came when Ibarra wasn’t in goal, Cobb said. On the whole, Ibarra and the Wildcats shut out opponents

15 times.

“He’s got height and athleticism,” Cobb said. “He came in as a freshman at about 250 pounds, and in one year I watched him drop about 70 of those pounds. I have never seen a player put in the work that he did over the years. He was a phenomenal goalkeeper, but he’s really just a pure soccer player. I could’ve played him anywhere and he would’ve delivered.”

And anchoring the Wildcats in the midfield was Co-Midfielder of the Year Grant Lowry, a versatile presence of leadership for the Wildcats. He scored four goals and 14 assists for Paris, and as Cobb put it, his impact went far beyond the statistics.

“Grant is truly an all-around player,” Cobb said. “He’s got great offensive capabilities and is also as good defensively as anyone on the back line. He’s going to be difficult to replace because of that.”

Joining him in receiving Co-Midfielder of the Year honors in North Lamar Panther Paulo Venegas, who finished the year with 10 goals and eight assists.

“Paulo is a terrific player,” North Lamar head coach Jon Rea said. “When he’s on his game, which he basically always is, he’s usually one of the very best players on the field, regardless of who we’re playing.”

And earning Newcomer of the Year honors was Panther Blake Hildreth, a key defensive player for North Lamar in just his freshman season.

“Soccer is a very physical game, and for a player to come in and right away have the sort of impact that Blake did is something special,” Rea said. “He’s already a great player, but the sky’s the limit if he continues to grow and develop.”

Making the All-District First Team from Paris was Jesus Rangel, with  Joset Gonzalez, Bryce Hollje, Jeovanny Avitua and Kellan Gibson.

On the Second Team All-District was Joe Ramirez, Braeden Tabangcora, Preston Harper, Paul Torres and Pablo Melguizo.

Tylen Draper represented the Panthers on the first team, while Adan Quezada made the second team.

Tommy Culkin is sports editor for The Paris News. He can be reached at 903-785-6972 or at tommy.culkin@theparisnews.com.

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