COVINGTON — Eastside boys soccer coach Champ Young took a moment to reflect Thursday during Jackson Jolley’s signing ceremony at Eastside High School.
He remembered when he coached Jolley several years ago on a youth soccer team.
Also on that team was Victor Delgado, a soon-to-be Heritage graduate who plays for Atlanta United’s developmental team. And there’s Alcovy senior Marley Stephenson, a Georgia State commit.
“It was a loaded roster, and this was them at 11,” Young said. “It’s so cool to sit back and go, ‘I knew that kid when he was little.’ Most of these kids here now, I knew them when they were little.”
On Thursday, Jolley became the latest player from that star-studded group of 11-year-olds to secure his soccer future, as the Eastside senior signed to play soccer at Erskine College.
“I mean, (Young) being a part of my life for so long, leaving here is hard,” Jolley said. “It’s just something you’ve got to grow with and hope everything goes right.”
Erskine is a Division II school in Due West, South Carolina, that competes in Conference Carolinas.
Erskine finished 4-9-2 last season but came on strong toward the end of the year, winning two of its last three matches.
Jolley said Warren Turner, who has coached the Flying Fleet for 12 seasons, is a main reason why he chose Erskine.
Jolley expects to compete for a spot on the team right away, and Young believes he has the ability.
“He was telling me the other day about possibly contributing right away, which is a big deal for a DII school,” Young said. “He’s definitely going to compete for minutes as an outside winger/back. It just depends on where they want him. They like his pace, they like his mentality. He had a great look when he went up there the last camp, so they’re excited about him.”
Jolley helped the Eagles to a 12-4-1 mark this season, including a 2-1 win against Heritage in March, the school’s first win against the Class 6A school in boys soccer.
Jolley’s teammates accounted for many of the people who crammed into Eastside’s library to watch him sign.
“I’ve been here for five years. I’ve been here since eighth grade, so everybody here is family,” Jolley said. “We’ve grown up together; everybody here is just part of my life, and I know I’m part of theirs.”
Young said having dozens of Jolley’s friends, family members and teammates attend the ceremony signifies the culture he’s worked to build around the program.
“Something we try to preach all the time, what I said in the speech earlier, is we’re more than just kicking a ball,” Young said. “They’re more than that to us, and for the people here he’s more than that to them, too. So we stress family, and family showed today.”