Herald All-Metro Boys Soccer: Montes secures MVP nod

Throughout the course of his career at Brownsville Porter, Brandon Montes has been the model of consistency.

He missed just one game in four years as a starter for the Cowboys. He improved year after year and was a top contributor to all of Porter’s success. During his senior season, Montes scored 26 goals and added 16 assists to lead the Cowboys to the Region IV-5A final. The District 32-5A co-MVP is also The Brownsville Herald’s 2021 All-Metro Boys Soccer Most Valuable Player.

“It’s a blessing. I’m grateful that everyone has recognized the hard work I put in,” Montes said. “I wanted to leave an impact since I was a freshman. I always wanted to be remembered, at Porter that’s one of your goals. One of the things I hope I left behind was you can be a top player while also keeping good grades in your class.”

Porter coach Jose Espitia called Montes “a true representation of what a Porter athlete is.” He’s not overwhelming in size, but he’s technical and committed, and loves and understands the game. Espitia said from the time Montes was a freshman people knew he was special, and he proved it throughout the years.

“Brandon is one of those players we get every four, five years. Very rare players that automatically become starters, become leaders and earn respect of the whole team. Very humble and very friendly. … He’s just a difference-maker,” Espitia said.

Montes was the All-Metro newcomer of the year as a freshman and developed into a two-time MVP. He said his life has been “constantly about soccer” and as his skills developed, so did his confidence. Montes is moving on to playing college soccer for Texas A&M International University.

As he prepares for the next chapter, Montes said the recognition and success he and his team had this year will be motivation. He was shaped by his years at Porter that he won’t soon forget.

“I’m excited to move on to bigger things and grateful for everything that happened during my senior year. It’s a motivation because it shows that the hard work is paying off,” Montes said. “I had amazing supporters out there, my coach, my family, my friends, my teachers, principal and assistant principals. It’s a blessing to have that support because not everybody has it. … Porter soccer is (a) really respected program. I’m happy to be a part of that and hope to be remembered as years pass by.”

Co-Offensive Player of the Year

Cesar Cepeda, Brownsville Veterans Memorial

District 32-5A is as stacked as they come in soccer. Talented teams and players face off night in and night out.

Cepeda, a senior midfielder, recorded 17 goals and nine assists to help the Chargers win the district championship and earned an all-district MVP nod for his efforts.

“It’s great, and I’m thankful for it. The hard work that I’ve put in over the years paid off my senior season,” Cepeda said. “It’s all thanks to God. Without Him, nothing is possible. My parents are very supportive and push me to do better, and my sisters are great motivation for me. I’m thankful for my coaches and teammates because they pushed me a lot throughout the years and helped me grow.”

Cepeda’s most memorable game from this season was the Chargers’ second-round victory over Corpus Christi Flour Bluff. He scored both goals in BVM’s 2-0 victory to advance to the regional quarterfinal round.

Experience gained from playing multiple positions with teams outside of BVM made Cepeda a better and more knowledgeable player. He strived to be a selfless player and was successful with that, too. Cepeda was the team captain his senior year, and expressed gratitude for all he experienced and learned while playing for the Chargers.

“I really put my best effort and pushed everyone to be on the same page. I’m just a team player,” Cepeda said. “I try to share the ball and put my teammates in an opportunity where they can score or make a big play. … I grew not only inside the pitch but outside of it. Soccer taught me a lot of lessons like never give up, be humble, work hard, things like that.”

Co-Offensive Player of the Year

Haziel Mejia, Brownsville IDEA Riverview

The Rockets had a historic season, winning the District 32-4A championship and reaching the third round of the playoffs. Mejia, a sophomore, had a lot to do with that success. The district offensive MVP was Riverview’s leading scorer, contributing 24 goals and four assists.

“It feels great to win this award,” Mejia said. “I know I am younger than some other players, but it’s great knowing that I can still compete and it’s an honor to know that I was one of the best offensive players of the year.

“It means a lot, not just for me but for the whole team. We know we are a very young team but we were all still able to stand out individually, and we improved game after game to get better and to be able to accomplish everything we did this season.”

Riverview coach Rudy Rodriguez called the forward a natural goal scorer. Rodriguez praised Mejia’s agility and ability “to read the game.” The sophomore credited his teammates and the Rockets’ chemistry for his stellar performances.

Mejia said this year motivates him “to keep working hard and earn many more individual and team awards.” He wants to continue doing big things for his school and those who support him.

“I would like to thank my godmother because she is the one that motivated me to start playing this beautiful game (and) my grandparents who have always been my No. 1 fans,” Mejia said. “Finally, I would like to thank my mom and dad, because they are the ones that always tell me everything I did right and wrong and they want me to get better. It is because of all of them that I am the player that I am today.”

Defensive Player of the Year

Isaac Acevedo, Brownsville Porter

The Cowboys kept opponents off the scoreboard in 10 games this season and held scoring to a minimum.

Acevedo, a senior goalkeeper, was at the heart of that stellar defense. From the goal, he directed defenders and came up with timely saves to help Porter reach the fifth round of the playoffs.

“It feels really good, but I wouldn’t take all the credit,” the UTRGV-bound keeper said. “It’s mostly my family and friends and teammates, because they were a big part of that and without them I couldn’t achieve this.”

Acevedo was quick to say the coaching and strong team bond led to his individual success. He said the Cowboys were “a family more than a team,” and the selfless attitude from all players was really special.

Porter coach Jose Espitia said Acevedo was like a coach on the field. Espitia lauded Acevedo’s work ethic, skills with his feet, reactions in the air and a number of characteristics that made him a standout goalie.

Acevedo said his experience playing in Mexico, Houston and all over with different teams refined his skills. He learned valuable lessons as he left a mark on Porter soccer and now has his sights set on a strong college career.

“It’s been a lot of hard work and dedication I’ve put into the sport. (I learned) how to be a leader and how to talk with teammates,” Acevedo said. “Getting individual awards and awards with the team has been great. Playing here was a dream come true, and I’ll always love Porter as my family.”

Newcomer of the Year

Ivan Galvan, Los Fresnos

Galvan, a sophomore, knew before the season started that he wanted to help the Falcons have a big year.

Galvan had an immediate impact, scoring a team-high 11 goals and adding four assists to aid Los Fresnos’ second consecutive District 32-6A championship and trip to the area round.

“I worked hard for it. I had to do my job. I tried to make assists, score goals when I can, and do everything I can just to support my team and help my team get district,” Galvan said. “I feel really excited about this award, and I need to work still to be a better player every day. I feel like I can make it as an MVP as a senior, and I can really develop as a player.”

Galvan felt productive and comfortable with the Falcons from the start because he communicated with teammates all summer and watched a lot of film. He spent time working with bigger, stronger, physical players in the offseason to develop his skills.

“I had to work on my shooting first as a varsity player because I had to make those goals. I had to work on sprints, dribbles, making offensive attacks. I did everything I could to help the team,” Galvan said.

Galvan said the team’s tight bond and being pushed by his coaches and family aided his successful sophomore campaign and will keep him improving in years to come.

“I see these guys more as a family than as a team. They were great friends. I have to give (credit for this award) to my coaches, my family, my friends. They never gave up on me and told me to work on this or that, to develop and they always helped me,” Galvan said.

Coach of the Year

Jose Espitia, Brownsville Porter

Espitia has helped bring a lot of success to Porter in his 14 years leading the soccer program.

This season, his Cowboys returned to the Region IV-5A final and he picked up career win No. 300. For his leadership and continued success, Espitia was named All-Metro coach of the year.

“All these awards and recognitions are a reflection of our kids,” Espitia said. “It can’t be done by yourself. It’s a full team effort. We have assistant coaches, managers, trainers, teachers, administrators, a lot of people working toward the same goal. It’s an honor to get this award, but it’s a reflection of all those people.”

Espitia said this season was very difficult and the Cowboys faced a lot of adversity. But the team believed “tienes que sufrir para merecer (you have to suffer to deserve),” and that mentality pushed them to work doubly hard.

“We didn’t have an athletic period throughout the year and did a lot of stuff virtually and on their own. And we were quarantined twice, so we felt like we had so many things against us,” Espitia said. “At Porter we’ve created a culture of winning, and challenges equal strength. Adversity is an opportunity to demonstrate how strong you are. We tried to use it to motivate them. Little by little we started feeling the chemistry and were more of a well-oiled machine getting into the second half of district.”

The well-oiled machine fell just short of its ultimate goal of reaching the state tournament. Already, Espitia and the Cowboys are using that as fuel to go even further next year.

ccruz@brownsvilleherald.com