Jerry Lopez describes himself as a simple player.
“Usually that’s what the game is all about,” Lopez said. “Receiving the ball, letting it go. (But) it’s always smart. Smart moves.”
The Thunder Ridge senior has indeed made the beautiful game look simple during his four-year varsity career. The past two seasons he’s propelled the Titans to the 5A state tournament and a pair of 5A District 5-6 championships.
For setting the bar high in the program’s two seasons, Lopez is the Post Register boys soccer player of the year.
“Jerry is creative, explosive, he has magic in his feet,” Blackfoot coach Liam Pope said. “I think he’s magical.”
Lopez, who began playing soccer in Mexico at age 7, led Thunder Ridge with 19 goals, breaking his own record of 18 set last year. He also recorded 11 assists as the Titans (13-4-1) didn’t miss a beat after last year’s inaugural season.
“We were trying to get a better outcome this year than last year,” Lopez said. “We wanted something better this season … I wanted to leave my mark on the school. I played my hardest every game and practiced every day.”
As a midfielder, Lopez is literally in the middle of the action during a match. It’s a position he said fits his style and a role he embraces.
“He’s what you imagine a dangerous striker to be,” Hillcrest coach Ryan Ellis said. “He’s fast, good on the ball, a good shot, and is hard to defend. He’s a playmaker.”
Lopez said he learned the game from his father at a young age. When the family moved to Idaho Falls in 2010, he learned to speak English by the third grade and was motivated to continue his improvement on the soccer field.
After playing two seasons at Bonneville, he was part of the original group that transferred to the newly-opened Thunder Ridge.
“It took a while to adapt,” he said of the team comprised of former Bonneville and Hillcrest players. “By the middle of the season we clicked.”
The district title and state tournament run was no fluke. This season the Titans beat Madison 3-0 in the district championship with Lopez scoring one of the goals.
“He could have hogged the ball and held on longer, but I was impressed how he used every player,” Rigby coach Bart Mower said. “He was very aware of what was going on the field.”
Lopez plans to play at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon.