Forsyth Central’s boys soccer team lost nine seniors after last year’s season was canceled because of COVID-19.
The team went 8-1 in their nine games, and rising senior Alex Guzman said he was unsure if the Bulldogs would be able to replicate that same success after losing almost half their team.
“Everyone knew we weren’t as talented as years past,” Guzman said. “Every time Coach Gifford had the chance to say it, he’d tell us we might not be the most talented team, but we are definitely the hardest working team and that’s why we were in the position that we were in.”
A year later, Guzman and his teammates brought home the program’s first-ever region championship to Central.
“We knew what was at stake during the game,” Guzman said. “From the bench, you could tell that everyone wanted it, cheering for each other. When the whistle blew everyone started celebrating. Honestly, everyone was surprised how hard everyone worked for each other. We lost so many seniors and then came out and won the region.”
Guzman led the Bulldogs on offensive his whole career. In 2021, he led the Bulldogs’ offense with 21 goals. He was Co-Region Player of the Year in 2020 with Patrick Kelly from South Forsyth and has been a staple on the All-Region team since his sophomore year.
However, Central head coach Will Gifford challenged Guzman to become more of a vocal leader throughout his senior season.
“Usually I’ll have trouble voicing things,” Guzman said. “My coach and I would talk about it, because even though I’m trying to say something positive, it might not come out that way. He would continuously come up to me and talk about how happy he was that I was stepping into that leadership role and encouraging the guys.”
Guzman first realized how good Central could be this season after coming back against North Forsyth to beat them in overtime. That made the Bulldogs 3-0 in region play and set them up for their run to the region championship.
“Everyone knew what had to be done, and they all wanted it,” Guzman said. “Some people claim they want it, but we all knew that each of us wanted it. We knew from day one we had to step up.”
Guzman played hero in the state tournament run for the Bulldogs. Their first-round game against Dunwoody, the first playoff game Central ever hosted, was scoreless with fewer than five minutes left in the game. Injured, Guzman entered the game and quickly scored to move Central onto the next round.
Central lost in the quarterfinals of the state tournament, 5-1, to South Gwinnett, then the top-ranked team in the state.
“It was a bad way to end a good season,” Guzman said. “However, everyone on the team can agree it feels pretty good to make history. The support the whole school gives you fuels you up to go get the best out of you, after every win chanting ‘Whose house? C-House!’ It may have not ended how we wanted, but things still felt so good.”
Guzman played his high school career alongside his younger brother Andy, who will be a senior next season. Their father started training both of them as soon as they could walk and the brothers have formed a healthy, competitive relationship on the field.
“The games I don’t score, I’ll hear it from him because they held it down pretty well all season,” Guzman said. “When I didn’t score, I’d hear it from him. It was a brotherly love with healthy competition. I can’t think of a game where our defense didn’t do well, so I’d have to make stuff up.”
In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, recruiting became exceptionally difficult for Guzman, despite his resume being covered in accolades. He had started on a new club team, so he did not get good playing time until November or December. After he got in, he began scoring in bunches.
“I gained a lot of interest, but then it died down,” Guzman said. “Schools were looking but they weren’t offering. Some had money, some wouldn’t.”
Now Guzman is committed to continue his soccer career collegiately at Presbyterian College, a Division I school in Clinton, S.C. The Blue Hose play in the Big South Conference.
“It’s very close to home, so my parents and brother could make day trips to make games,” Guzman said. “They also have great facilities. They just spent $10 million to upgrade their facilities. It also has the small-town vibe, which is a lot of fun.”
As Guzman continues his career outside of Forsyth County, he leaves as one of the most decorated players in Forsyth Central High School history, and according to Guzman, a better person than he before he walked in the halls.