It is the senior goalkeeper’s abilities in front of the net that played a big role in the Raiders’ march to the Class AAAAA state boys’ soccer playoffs, where they advanced to the second round.
With his standout performance in goal for Riverwood, Copeland is the 2014 Neighbor Newspapers boys’ soccer player of the year.
Copeland, who was a team captain for Riverwood, recorded a 0.77 goals against average and seven shutouts to lead the Raiders to a 13-5-1 record and a tie for first place in Region 7AAAAA with Pope and Creekview.
For his efforts, he was honored as an All-Region 7AAAAA second-team selection.
“Burke was a dynamic leader and our most important player,” Riverwood community coach Adam Beckman said. “The most remarkable thing about Burke was that he showed up every day and did his job. He was the consummate team player, no matter the situation. I can point at many of our wins and honestly say that if Burke wasn’t in goal, we wouldn’t have won. When we needed a big play in goal, he always came through.”
Another player of the year finalist — Holy Spirit Prep senior goalkeeper Luke Whelan — also made a big impact in front of the goal with eight shutouts to lead the Cougars to the GISA Class AAA state semifinals.
“Being out recruiting for college, I’ve seen goalkeepers all over the state and the country and Luke’s distribution and athleticism sets him apart from anyone else I’ve seen,” said Holy Spirit Prep coach Clayton Schmitt, who also serves as a assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for the Oglethorpe University men’s soccer team.
Whelan will continue his soccer career on the college level at Belmont Abbey.
Another finalist for boys’ player of the year was Holy Innocents’ senior forward Clay Pfohl, who scored 21 goals to lead the Golden Bears to the second round of the Class A private school state playoffs.
“Clay is one of the fastest and most powerful forwards in the state,” Holy Innocents’ coach Leary Barnes said. “Clay is a good captain, who contributes his share of goals from fast breaks, penalty kicks and free kicks.”
Westminster midfielder Trey Blasingame was another player of the year candidate after a junior season in which he had eight goals and seven assists to lead the Wildcats to the AA state finals.
Westminster and Riverwood led the way with three players each on the All-Area boys’ first team.
In addition to player of the year Copeland, the Raiders also placed junior defender Skyler deGroot and sophomore forward Eric Cruz on the first team.
Blasingame was joined on the first team by Westminster teammates Tony Zhou — a senior midfielder — and Justin Greenfield — a junior forward.
Lovett placed two players on the first team — senior midfielder Nick Grant and junior defender Wes Haley — while Holy Spirit Prep is represented by Whelan and senior midfielder Will Garlen.
Other first-team selections are Holy Innocents’ player Pfohl, North Atlanta sophomore defender Quadry Glass and North Springs senior defender Jarvis Termure.