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BOYS SOCCER PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Cooper Coughlin, Lambert
Longhorns embraced senior leader
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Lambert senior midfielder Cooper Coughlin helped lead the Longhorns to the Region 6-AAAAAA championship. Coughlin will play at Appalachian State next season. - photo by Brian Paglia

Cooper Coughlin came to Lambert High School the summer of 2011 without a single friend in Georgia. His father’s job was transferred to Atlanta, so the Coughlin family moved from Clearwater, Florida, to Forsyth County.

Coughlin had played varsity soccer as a freshman in Florida. One of the first things he did after moving was attend a Longhorns’ summer camp. It was the perfect introduction for Coughlin to head coach Chris Wilson and his future teammates, and he made an instant connection.

"We hung out all summer," Coughlin said, "so it was easy. They kind of accepted me right away."

Indeed, Coughlin became an immediate contributor for Lambert who eventually elevated himself this season to arguably the county’s top talent and the coaches’ choice for the 2014 Forsyth County Boys’ Soccer Player of the Year.

The senior midfielder scored 13 goals and had 10 assists to help the Longhorns go 13-5-0, capture the Region 6-AAAAAA championship and reach the state tournament for fifth straight season.

It was the fitting conclusion of Coughlin’s exciting run with Lambert. That first season with the Longhorns after moving from Florida, Lambert went undefeated and won the Class AAAA championship and Coughlin was an all-county selection.

The next year, Lambert won 16 games, reached the quarterfinals of the state tournament, and Coughlin was named all-county and all-region.

This season, Coughlin became a captain, a role he relished as the Longhorns broke in several younger players, though he wasn’t unfamiliar with the responsibility. It was a role he sought ever since he arrived and proved his value to the team.

"I’m a competitor and a leader in a sense," Coughlin said. "I just kind of looked for people to look up to me, like make plays and stuff. I was kind of used to it."

So when Lambert faced off with then No. 2-ranked Walton in its biggest game of the regular season, it was Coughlin who got the Longhorns started with an early goal.

And when Lambert faced Johns Creek with a shot at the region title on the line, it was Coughlin who scored an insurance goal in a 2-0 win.

Even in the Longhorns’ disappointing 2-1 upset loss to South Gwinnett in first round of the Class AAAAAA playoffs, it was Coughlin who provided Lambert’s lone goal.

The ending was sooner than Coughlin had hoped, but in many ways the season was everything he could have asked for.

"I’m just going to miss my team," Coughlin said. "I loved playing with them."

His new team will be in Boone, North Carolina. It’s another move for Coughlin, but one he’s ready for.

"I went up there for my official [visit], and I just loved it," he said. "Loved the guys, loved the campus. I just wanted to go there. It’s a great soccer program and a good coach."

Appalachian State will join the Sun Belt Conference next season, and Coughlin knows his competitive edge will be put to the test. The Mountaineers played a freshman his position this past season and already have a junior providing depth, too.

But just like when Coughlin was thrust into a new environment three years ago, a new challenge, his isn’t fazed by the next one that awaits him.

"It’s going to be tough," Coughlin said, "but just got to do it anyways."