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Johnny Huerta showed why he’s one of the state’s best young talents Saturday night with one flick of his foot.
Already leading rival South Oldham 1-0 in the first half, Oldham County was streaking down the field looking to double the lead.
Colonel Josh Thomas looked up and saw Huerta in position crashing toward the goal. Thomas passed the ball over to Huerta, who had only the goalkeeper to beat.
But with the keeper coming at Huerta in an attempt to stop the ball, the Oldham midfielder had only one real option on how to put the ball in the net. He had to chip it over the goalie.
So Huerta took a touch and then, with his right foot, flicked the ball up in the air, just over the keepers reach. The ball reached its peak, then came down just short of the crossbar and hit the ground inside the goal.
His goal proved to be the difference in a match Oldham took 2-1.
“That was phenomenal,” Colonel teammate Jacob McMurry said. “He couldn’t have played that any better. To get that up over that keeper in the short amount of space he had, it’s crazy.”
But phenomenal finishes have become the norm with Huerta, Oldham’s sophomore center-midfielder.
Last season Huerta scored five goals as a freshman starting almost every game.
One goal in particular, a 40-yard rocket that also came in a win over South, showcased his natural ability to put the ball in the net, coach Brian Durbin said.
“Finishing’s something you have or you don’t,” Durbin said. “It’s great as a soccer coach when you get one of those kids.
“Even last year as a freshman he had that ability. It’s not generally something you teach — a kid either has it or he doesn’t. Johnny has it.”
Huerta’s been working on his game for almost as long as he can remember, he said. While his father’s side of the family was made up of basketball players, athletically Huerta took his sporting interests from his mom’s side of the family. They were all soccer players in their youths and Huerta followed suit.
“I’d been playing since I was three,” he said.“I was always outside dribbling a ball, so I kind of just got used to it.”
Oldham teammate Brendon Wisdom first got a glimpse of Huerta’s talents when Huerta was starring for Wisdom’s father’s youth team.
“He scored, I bet, 80 percent of their goals,” Wisdom said. “It was phenomenal. It was incredible to watch him then and he’s just as explosive a player now as he was then.
“He wanted the ball more than anyone else on the field and he was going to do whatever it took to put it in the goal.”
Now Huerta is trying to work on leadership skills that supplement his natural gifts.
Playing center-mid in soccer is similar to playing quarterback — directing the offense while also having the ability to take care of things yourself when needed.
“More than anything, and it’s unusual to see as a sophomore, he’s definitely stepped up as a leader this year,” Durbin said. “Last year he was kind of under the tutelage of the older guys… We have him playing center-mid and in that position you really have to direct what happens on the entire field. He’s very comfortable doing that.”
Huerta living up to expectations will go a long way if the Colonels are to get back to the state tournament this season. Oldham, which appeared in the 2010 and 2011 state tournaments, lost in the Region 8 title game last season to South.
“I’d like to win district and region this year,” Huerta said. “Hopefully move on to state and try to get past the first round. I just need to be a leader on the field and do as much as possible as I can to try to help the team.”
After this year, Huerta will still have two whole seasons left to star for the Colonels. After that, he said he wants to play for a Division-I college and then get a chance to go pro.
“If he keeps his work rate up, the possibilities are endless,” Durbin said. “He could do anything… he’s definitely one of the standout players for his age group in our state. I think the sky’s the limit for him.”
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