By Justin Rust
Of the Commercial Staff
Usually the goaltender gets the praise for shutouts and allowing as few goals as possible. But the Arkansas High School Coaches Association saw differently when it came to White Hall’s stellar defensive play.
The Bulldogs (17-4) gave up just 16 goals on the year with seven shutouts as they made it to the second round of the Class 5A boys state soccer tournament.
Two of the players who were behind White Hall’s defensive prowess this past season — goaltender Cody Jones and sweeper Tommy Townsend — were both selected to participate in today’s All-Star game in Fayetteville.
“That’s a rarity to have two players go to the game,” White Hall coach Don Malone said. “It’s definitely a feather in White Hall’s cap that we are producing quality players.”
The two players were perfect compliments to each other. Townsend would do everything he could to limit as many shots on goal as he could. When the attacker was fortunate enough to get past Townsend, Jones was very efficient at making sure the ball did not make it to the back of the net.
Not only do both players compliment each other on the field, but also off it as well.
“We’ve been friends for a long time,” Jones said. “We trust each other back there.”
White Hall only allowed 105 shots on goal in 21 games. That is an average of only five shots on goal a game.
Malone contributes such a low number to Townsend’s ability to break up the offensive attack.
“With his ability to read the offense and get in position to breakup the attacks, you can’t say enough good things about him,” Malone said. “He was the first line of defense and he has the uncanny ability to get in the right place. If the attack never forms, it limits the shots on goal.”
Despite having such a good season, Townsend said he was surprised to get selected to the All-Star game.
“I wanted to do well since it was my senior season and I wanted to go all out,” he said. “I just did my job. … I wasn’t expecting it, but I am honored.”
The All-Star game could be the last competitive sanctioned soccer game Townsend plays in his career. He will attend Arkansas-Little Rock starting in the fall, but the Trojans do not have a men’s soccer team.
Even though Townsend is all ready to attend UALR, if he catches a coach’s eye today, he will have a hard time turning down an opportunity to play soccer again.
“I do love soccer and if a coach were to offer, we will see what happens,” Townsend said.
Jones’ soccer career will continue after today’s game and he will attended Williams Baptist College in Walnut Ridge. He will be a part of the soccer team.
Jones had a .848 save percentage this year to go along with his seven shutouts.
“He had a fantastic year,” Malone said. “He kept us in a lot of games and gave us a chance to win every time out. He has improved tremendously over the past four years.”
Like Townsend, Jones was surprised to be selected for the All-Star game because he does not really compare his game or stats to other players in the state.
“I don’t like to judge myself based on other people,” he said. “I just try and do what I can and let my play out on the field speak for itself. They selected who they thought were the best and it’s an honor to make it.”