After he moved to Texas from Uruguay before his freshman year of high school, Leo Peralta realized he was in a different world the first moment he turned on the television.

Flip. Flip. Flip. Peralta thought, where’s all the futbol?

“I would go through the TV channels looking for soccer, going, ‘Where are the soccer channels?’ You have to call to add it to your TV,” Peralta said. “Ah, man. That was pretty hard.”

Peralta has grown more accustomed to American lifestyle and cable systems over the past four years, but his passion for soccer, which is ingrained in the fabric of South American culture, has never faded. That devotion spilled over onto the pitch at Midway, where he demonstrated his inherent talents from the moment he stepped on campus.

Now, as Peralta departs Midway as one of the state’s all-time leading goal scorers, he also makes a little history as the first three-time winner of the Trib’s Super Centex Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year honor. In the team’s 13-year history, there had been two other two-time winners, Waco High’s Kollin Kahler and University’s Bruno Castro, but Peralta breaks the tie with his third straight superlative.

Midway head coach Patrick Posey presided over the Panthers’ junior varsity team when Peralta first broke in, and he knew immediately that this player shouldn’t be shackled on the subvarsity.

“Funny story, he started out as a freshman on the JV field with me and after about two days, I went to Coach (Tim) O’Leary and said, ‘He doesn’t need to be over here,’” Posey said. “He was brought over to Tim’s field, and the rest is history. He was the only freshman who has ever started for Midway.”

Peralta wasn’t one to rest on his superior skill set, though. After each season he sought to target and develop a certain area of his game, which last offseason involved improving his control with his left foot, which is not his dominant foot.

“Each year when the season is over we have a talk with the coaches, and they would tell you what you need to improve on, things to get better,” Peralta said. “It helped me in general, passing more with my left, getting the ball out faster, crossing the ball, shooting. I’ve been working on it a lot through the years.”

With that expanded repertoire, Peralta powered in 36 goals this season as a senior, finishing with a career tally of 125 goals. Most impressively, he remained prolific even when he quite literally was a marked man. Peralta remembers at least one game where he had three defenders hovering around his every move.

“They would key on him, teams that knew about him or knew about us,” Posey said. “They’d definitely have somebody marking him, but the thing about Leo is that he’s so strong that he can get a first touch by somebody and even if they’re marking him pretty tightly, he can still get a first-touch by them and he just needs a little bit of space. He’s got such a quick whip and that shot comes off so fast that people don’t have time to react.”

Peralta’s Americanization reached new levels last fall when he joined the Midway football team as the Panthers’ starting placekicker. Soccer goals and field goals frequently go hand in hand, or rather foot in foot, but Peralta was initially hesitant about tackling the new assignment.

Ultimately, Peralta couldn’t stave off the heavy recruiting pitch from Midway’s goalie Bubu Alvarez, a nose tackle for the football team.

“I was like, ‘I don’t know, because I see y’all out there in the heat, running around, with the shoulder pads and the helmets. I don’t think I want to do that,’ ” Peralta said. “Bubu was like, ‘But you should come, we really need a kicker.’ So I said OK, it couldn’t be that bad, just kicking. So I went out there one time with Bubu and kicked, like, a 55-yard field goal and they all said, ‘Oh my God! You should be our kicker!’ I said OK. It’s a pretty easy job.”

Peralta certainly made it look easy, earning first-team all-state honors in Class 5A in his lone football season. He also ended up passing up several soccer scholarship offers to sign with Trinity Valley Community College in football, because that’s where the most scholarship money resided.

But even if Peralta makes it all the way to the NFL, he’ll never forget his first love. And he’ll always know where to find soccer on the tube.

“I’m not taking it as goodbye,” Peralta said. “Do I think I could go do two years for football and two years for soccer? It all depends. If I get the chance to go play football at A&M or Baylor or whatever, I’ll take that. Here in the United States, football is like soccer is in Uruguay. If I get the chance to go play soccer too, I’d take that.”

Coach of the Year: Patrick Posey, Midway

Years ago, Midway’s Patrick Posey planned a career as an accountant. He even worked as one for a couple of years.

The job didn’t take though, for Posey discovered that what counted more than tabulating figures was trying to impact the lives of young people.

After more than a decade as Tim O’Leary’s top assistant, Posey inherited the head coaching job from that longtime Midway fixture this year. The Panthers didn’t miss a beat, winning the District 8-5A championship and reaching the area round of the playoffs before succumbing to third-ranked and eventual regional finalist Flower Mound Marcus.

For all his efforts in upholding Midway’s long soccer tradition, Posey has been selected as this year’s Super Centex Coach of the Year.

If you ask Posey, what smoothed the transition was the small army of coach-on-the-field types he had among his senior class.

“I’d been with the program for 11 years before this, so I knew the routine and what we do and everything,” he said. “But having guys that can kind of take charge in a positive way, it definitely helped me out in being able to concentrate on what I need to concentrate on, to get these guys where they need to be.”

The Panthers were challenged throughout the season, but demonstrated plenty of pluck and perseverance. Even with the district title already in the bag, Midway rallied from behind in its final regular-season game of the year against Harker Heights, getting a late goal from Logan Hickey to force overtime before pulling out the win in extra time.

“I was really proud of the guys and the way they didn’t quit,” Posey said, “because at that point of the year they had technically already locked up the district championship. But to go out at the end and still put their best product on the field, not give up, it’s just a testament to work ethic, their fortitude and heart, basically.”

Posey bested several worthy candidates for the Coach of the Year award, including Gatesville’s Van Collins, University’s Mike Chapman and Reicher’s Alex Braig, who in his first year as sole head coach directed the Cougars to their first playoff trip in nine years.

Newcomer of the Year: Jorge Cerrillo, Waco High

Being the new kid, a stranger in unfamiliar surroundings, is never easy. One good way to make friends, however, is to impress everyone with some special trick or talent.

For Jorge Cerrillo, that meant soccer.

In his first year at Waco High after transferring from Harmony Science Academy, Cerrillo managed to fit in like he’d been playing with his new buddies forever. The sophomore scored 12 goals and distributed seven assists for the Lions, helping him garner the Trib’s Newcomer of the Year honor.

“Coming up to a brand new high school to me, earning my spot on varsity, it took hard work,” Cerrillo said. “It took training, ball movement, working after school, during school, summer.”

Cerrillo followed his father into soccer, learning the fundamentals as a preschool tyke, and displayed enough versatility that Lions coach Kris Kahler shuffled him between both forward and the midfield, depending on the situation.

What Kahler appreciated most is that Cerrillo didn’t try to coast on his talent.

“Quit is a word that wasn’t in Jorge’s vocabulary,” Kahler said. “He’s an extremely talented soccer player, but he’s also high-octane. Just a huge heart, he’ll fight for the ball, and he ended up with a pretty solid season.”

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First-team profiles

LEO PERALTA

Sr, Forward

Midway

Three-time Player of Year tacked on 36 goals to finish with 125 for brilliant career.

GIOVANNI LOPEZ

Jr, Forward

University

Attacker topped high-scoring Trojans with 19 goals, also added 8 assists.

NICK AMATO

Sr, Forward

Belton

District 8-5A offensive MVP tallied 15 goals, 7 assists for bi-district finalists.

DAVEN PRUITT

Sr, Midfielder

China Spring

Cougars’ all-time leader in goals and assists added to totals with 16 goals, 8 helpers.

LOGAN HICKEY

Sr, Midfielder

Midway

Hill College signee, 8-5A midfielder of year had knack for late, clutch goals.

ARON ALVAREZ

Sr, Midfielder

University

Dubbed “brains of offense” by his coach, Alvarez smartly distributed 15 assists.

VICENTE EULLOQUE

So, Midfielder

Reicher

Team’s top scorer (12 goals, 7 assists) also served as key cog on defensive side.

OMAR WILLIAMS

So, Defender

Waco High

2013 Newcomer, returning all-stater anchored Lions’ back-line defense.

MICHAEL GALVAN

Jr, Defender

University

Helped spearhead unit that gave up only 17 goals in team’s 30 matches.

EMANUEL BARBUS

Sr, Defender

Midway

Classic “coach on field” prototype will further playing days at Concordia.

OSCAR HERRERA

Sr, Goalkeeper

University

33-4A goalkeeper of year pitched 22 shutouts in first full year as starter.

JORGE CERRILLO

So, Midfielder

Waco High

Transfer student netted 12 goals, including 40-yard bomb vs. Bryan

PATRICK POSEY

Coach

Midway

Longtime assistant made smooth transition to head coach, won 8-5A crown

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