By Rubin E. Grant
Indian Springs boys soccer coach Rik Tozzi considers junior forward Jackson Nabors his surrogate son.
That’s because Nabors has grown up with Tozzi’s son Nathan, a junior midfielder, and the two are like brothers.
Tozzi also is good friends with Nabors’ parents, especially his dad, Jason Nabors.
Their close relationship is why Tozzi went to the Nabors and convinced them that Jackson, who just happens to be 6-foot-8, should change positions on the Indian Springs soccer team this year.
“For his entire life, Jackson had been a defender,” Tozzi said. “But I told them that Jackson was a striker. Just look at his athleticism, the way he runs, his fluid motions, his foot work and the way he controls the ball. I told them he should be playing up top.”
Tozzi’s sales job worked. Jackson Nabors moved to forward this season and the results were better than even Tozzi imagined.
Nabors scored 53 goals and had 23 assists, leading Indian Springs to a 24-2-1 record and the AHSAA Class 4A-5A state championship.
He was especially dominant and impressive in Indian Springs’ two games in the state tournament May 6-7. He assisted on both of Indian Springs’ goals in a 2-0 semifinal victory over Montgomery Academy and scored both goals in a 2-0 victory over Russellville in the championship game, preventing the Tigers (19-1) from completing an undefeated season.
Nabors was named the tournament MVP, but he credited his teammates.
“I don’t even know what to say,” Nabors said afterward. “I’m speechless. I may have scored the goals, but I couldn’t have done it without every single one of them.”
Nabors’ performance made Tozzi look like a genius for putting him at striker.
“I knew with his athleticism and knowledge of the game he would excel wherever we put him,” Tozzi said. “But he excelled even more at striker than I thought he would, and he did it against bigger schools and everybody else, even though he was facing double- or triple-teams at times.
“After we won the state championship, his dad looked at me and said, ‘Yeah, you were right,’ in a good-natured way.”
Colleges have taken note of Nabors, who also plays for the Vestavia Hills Soccer Club.
“He’s got a lot of prestigious (NCAA) Division I schools looking at him,” Tozzi said. “I don’t know of any college program that he couldn’t play for.”
OTM Players Named to Super All-State Team
Last week, Nabors was named to the Alabama High School Soccer Coaches 2021 Super All-State Boys First Team.
He was one of four players from Indian Springs to be voted first team. The others were junior midfielder Nathan Tozzi, junior goalkeeper Tosh Sims and senior defender Riley Alexander.
Class 6A champion Homewood had two players on the first team, senior midfielder Hardy Smith and junior keeper Luke Keown.
Other Over the Mountain players on the first team are Mountain Brook senior forward Patrick Neil, John Carroll Catholic junior midfielder Christopher LaRussa, Spain Park junior defender Alan Melendez and Vestavia Hills defender Mitchell Register.
On the second team are Hoover’s Jay Udeh, senior forward, and Dylan Steely, senior midfielder; Mountain Brook’s Joe Armstrong, junior midfielder, and Jack Heaps, sophomore midfielder; Oak Mountain’s Seth Acton, junior midfielder, and Grant Renfrow, senior keeper; and Spain Park’s Jacob Jowers, senior midfielder.
Spain Park’s Matt Hall was named the large schools (6A-7A) coach of the year and Tozzi was named the private/parochial school coach of the year.
Hall led the Jaguars to a 19-2-3 record and the Class 7A title, the first boys soccer state championship in school history. Tozzi led Indian Springs to its first Class 4A-5A title and fourth state title overall.