Oak Grove’s Elean Fajardo and Sacred Heart’s Heath Flathau were both forces to be reckoned with during the 2019-2020 soccer season as both proved to be X-factors for each of their teams’ seasons.
The duo’s statistical seasons and impact on the field earned Fajardo and Flathau the honor of PineBeltSPORTS Boys Soccer Co-Players of the Year.
For Fajardo, it is the second year in a row of earning the honor after being named Area Player of the Year in the 2018-2019 season. However, Fajardo almost did not get the opportunity to play his senior season due to a hip injury.
“I was a little scared because I thought I was going to miss my senior year, and I was trying to recover from an injury,” Fajardo said. “I did rehab over the summer, and it helped. I was overworking my body and got hurt. I had problems with my hips and dealing with hip tendonitis. I feel like I could have done way better if I would have been 100 percent healthy. But it’s things that happen, and I don’t have any regrets, to be honest.”
In 16 games, Fajardo racked up 24 goals and 12 assists. According to Fajardo, the most memorable goal came in an overtime road win over George County.
In the game, Fajardo scored the game-tying goal to send the match into overtime.
“I remember playing George County away and George County away is one of the toughest games I have ever played simply because it’s a small field and their players are pretty aggressive,” Fajardo said. “We went out there with the mentality of knowing it was going to be a tough game. Even though we beat them 3-0 at home, we knew that they were going to be motivated, and, for some reason, they hate us.
“With three minutes left, (they) pass me the ball and I didn’t think even think about it and I shoot the first time across. It was like a bullet right side of the goal. The keeper touched it, but it was too powerful. Then, we go to overtime and we win it in penalty kicks.”
In fact, in that game against the Rebels, Fajardo recorded his fifth of six hat trick games on the season.
In Flathau’s season, he made a return to Sacred Heart after moving to Texas in his junior year to play in a different soccer league. According to Flathau, returning to play to Sacred Heart helped fuel his goals entering the season.
“My mindset going into the year was do whatever you can to win a state championship,” Flathau said. “Anything I did this season was for that and anything the team did was for that.
(Returning to Sacred Heart) was the best feeling. It’s kind of hard to describe. I’ve been on this team since the seventh grade, and getting that jersey back on after a year of not having that was anything I could ask for. It’s the best feeling.”
Flathau, logged 20 goals and 13 assists on the season, but, according to him, the most important goal and assist he recorded was in the south state championship game against Clarkdale.
“(I scored) a PK in the last minute and then Clarkdale scored a PK in the last minute and it went into overtime. Then in overtime, I assisted my good buddy, Heath Hogan, and then that was the final goal and we won it in overtime. It was definitely those two goals because it was South State, and it led us to the championship. I was just glad to get that goal and assist my team.
Flathau’s effort helped the Crusaders both return and win back-to-back state championships.
Both Fajardo and Flathau have signed to play college soccer.
Fajardo will continue his career at Jones College. According to Fajardo, the Player of the Year honor was not only an honor but a culmination of his hard work.
“I’m proud of that and I know I put in the work and deserved it,” Fajardo said. “I try to improve my game as much as I can and learn new things from different coaches and give it all on the field.”
As for Flathau, he will continue his career at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
“I’m very excited about that,” Flathau said. “I’m just glad I can put Sacred Heart on the map and see all this hard work that I’ve done over the years (pay off). I’m excited to see what D-1 is all about and see where it takes me and see what the journey has in store for me.”