OXFORD — Filiberto Ruedas’ transformation began three months before he even stepped on the soccer pitch for his senior year at Oxford High.
Head coach Dwight McDonald wanted to build the team’s chemistry, but he did even more for Ruedas, working on his aggressiveness and determination to the best on the field.
“During the offseason he made tremendous strides in his abilities,” McDonald said. “He’d play pickup games and in a league, and that changed his offensive mindset. He was really unstoppable. He had some bad luck sometimes, but he was really a key in the offense. When I took him off the field, it changed the flow of the offense.”
Ruedas, who plays striker, scored in 16 of the 20 games in which Oxford put up at least one goal, and he helped the Yellow Jackets to their first Class 6A playoff appearance in 13 years.
He finished with a team-high 19 goals and eight assists.
As a result, he is The Anniston Star’s boys soccer player of the year.
One Oxford game sticks out to Ruedas more than any other. After losing to Gadsden City and tying Faith Christian at home, Oxford traveled to Gadsden City for its third 6A, Area 12 game of the season. The Yellow Jackets won 1-0 and eventually took the area crown.
“They beat us at home, and we had a good bit of motivation going over to their house and beating them,” Ruedas said. “They beat us at home and away last year, but this year beating them gave us first place.”
Ruedas credited his success to looking up to older players from when he joined the team as an eighth grader.
He also has played with the same teammates throughout most of his high school career, which created a friendly competition this past season with striker Luis Gomez.
“Me and my friend Luis, since the beginning of the season starting scoring goals back-to-back and it became a competition to the very end,” he said.
Ruedas won the competition, finishing with the most goals on the team, which he reminds Gomez about from time to time.
Now a graduate from Oxford High, Ruedas wants to keep things simple, just working and going to college. Although he has not determined where he will go to school or what he will study, Ruedas noted he is interested in science.
Brandon Miller covers prep sports for The Star. He can be reached at 256-235-3575 or follow him on Twitter @bmiller_star