By Rubin E. Grant
Mountain Brook soccer players Isabel “Izzy” Smith and Jack Heaps trained together often before and after school in the spring.
“It was super fun to get together to train,” Smith said. “Jack is one of the hardest workers I’ve ever been around.”
The two challenged each other to see who would score the most goals during the 2022 season.
Heaps, a 5-foot-9 junior midfielder, won the challenge. He finished with a school-record 33 goals and five assists to help the Mountain Brook boys win the Alabama High School Athletic Association Class 6A state championship with a 25-2-2 record. It was the first title in school history.
Smith, a 5-7 senior midfielder, scored 31 goals and had 13 assists, leading the Spartans girls to a 13-5-1 record and to the Class 6A quarterfinals.
The friendly duo were rewarded for their performances by being named the 2021-2022 Gatorade Player of the Year for boys and girls soccer in Alabama. It’s the first time in state history that both soccer award winners have been from the same school in the same year.
“That’s really cool,” Heaps said. “Me and Izzy are very close. We push each other to get better. I think it’s awesome we both received the Gatorade award.”
The award recognizes outstanding athletic excellence and high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field.
“I am very happy for both of us,” Smith said. “It’s an amazing achievement because it takes in not only what you do athletically, but also what you do academically and your community involvement.”
Heaps is a member of the National Honor Society, the Spanish Honor Society and the Mu Alpha Theta math honor society. He has volunteered on behalf of St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. The rising senior has maintained a weighted 4.32 GPA.
Smith has volunteered locally on behalf of a food bank, a homeless shelter, youth soccer programs and the Night to Shine prom experience for special needs students. She maintained an A average in the classroom.
Gatorade’s awards program, which recognizes state award winners in 12 sports, is in its 37th year. Heaps is the fourth Gatorade Alabama Boys Soccer Player of the Year from Mountain Brook, joining Charles Wood (2002-03), Austin McKee (2004-05), Nathan Diel (2009-10 and 2010-11). Smith is the second girls honoree from Mountain Brook, joining Leigh Haynes (2014-2015).
The Product of Soccer Families
Both Heaps and Smith come from soccer families. Heaps’ father, Jay, earned the 1994-1995 Gatorade award for Massachusetts, played collegiately at Duke and played professionally. He is now president and general manager of the Birmingham Legion FC USL club.
Smith’s dad, Houston, played at Mountain Brook, where his number was retired after his senior year, and her mother, Stephanie, played at Grissom in Huntsville. Both also played collegiately at UAB, and that’s where they met.
Both players also have brothers named Jude who play for Mountain Brook.
The younger brothers will have to grow to match their older siblings’ accomplishments on the soccer field.
“Jack Heaps is a very lethal attacking midfielder,” Homewood coach Julian Kersh said. “He doesn’t look physically imposing, but he’s extremely athletic and his vertical lets him get headers over taller players. His left-footed strike is just as powerful as his right, and he’s not afraid to put in a crunching tackle if he needs to.”
“Isabel Smith is a tremendous person and leader and one of the best players this state has ever seen,” Hoover coach Will Partridge said. “Any time the ball touches her foot, you almost stop in your tracks in awe of what she could do with it.”
Smith will play in college at Indiana University. She reported to campus last week to begin training for the fall season.
“I hope to get on the field as much as I can during the season,” Smith said. “I talked to the coach (Erwin van Bennekom) and he said nothing is guaranteed, that he’ll see how I perform.”
Jack Heaps, who still has senior year remaining for the Spartans, recently committed to Georgetown.
“I met the coaching staff and formed a great relationship with them,” Heaps said. “They have a top-five soccer program, plus I value a degree from Georgetown.”
Next week Heaps will play in the AHSAA North-South All-Star soccer game in Montgomery.
“I’m looking forward to it,” Heaps said. “It’s going to be cool to be on the same team with players I played against during the season.”