By Wil Crews
Opelika boys’ soccer player Ethan Neman and Opelika boys’ soccer coach Derek Hovell will be representing the Bulldogs at the 2021 AHSAA North-South All Star Sports Week in Montgomery from July 19-23.
Neman, a 5-foot-10-inch rising senior, was selected for the all-star South soccer squad when teams were announced on May 25 by Director of the Alabama High School Athletic Directors & Coaches Association (AHSADCA), Jamie Lee.
“I’m really excited for this opportunity and really look forward to this game,” Neman said.
Hovell was recently selected to be a part of the three-man South coaching squad as a replacement for a coach who will be unable to attend the event.
“I got a call from the director of all the coaches and stuff and he said he had heard my name tossed around and wondered if I could be a replacement for him,” Hovell said. “I said ‘absolutely’. It’s a great honor.”
The opportunity to coach an all-star game is a first for Hovell; the fact that Neman was already named to the team made it an even easier thing to say yes to, he said.
“It makes it even better knowing you have one of your players on the team. It’s a little more personal that way.”
Neman, the fourth Bulldog to make the all-star game under Hovell, helped lead Opelika to a 11-5-2 overall record in 2021. As one of only two returning Bulldog defenders who had varsity level experience coming into the season, Neman contributed to seven team shutouts and was named defensive MVP at the end of the year.
“Ethan was the anchor of the defense this year,” Hovell said. “To be able to step up in that role, in a defense that after the 2020 COVID year was depleted … him being the center defender in front of the goalkeeper, he really helped out in keeping all those clean sheets. He was able to play some offense and score a few goals as well. He’s just a well-rounded player; a great kid, with a good attitude, who deserves to be on the team.”
All All-Star Week matches will be live-streamed over the NFHS Network and AHSAA TV Network with Tim Loreman and the Central-Phenix City High School NFHS School Broadcast Program producing the events and WOTM TV’s Vince Earley serving as executive producer.