SUWANEE — As a high school senior, James Williams is probably still taking advanced mathematics courses to prepare himself for college.
One thing that is certain, however, is that based on his performance on the soccer pitch, the Peachtree Ridge forward already has a masterful grasp of basic arithmetic.
“(Peachtree Ridge) Coach (Ryan Sutton) wanted me to double my goals each season,” Williams said. “So my freshman year, I had two goals, sophomore year five goals and 10 goals last year. I’m looking for more than 20 (this season). The sky’s the limit for that. I’ve really been working hard, training hard.”
Technically, Williams’ goal-scoring numbers more than doubled between his freshman and sophomore seasons, but his point remains the same.
And while it may not be quite correct from a mathematical perspective to say his production and contributions to the Lions’ program have grown exponentially throughout his career, it is not an exaggeration to use that term from a colloquial standpoint.
Williams actually underestimated his career goal total, which is 18, 10 of which came last year, to go with nine assists, to not only earn him Region 6-AAAAAAA’s Forward of the Year honor, but also help Peachtree Ridge advance to the Class AAAAAA state semifinals a year ago.
No matter how the mathematical formula is framed, Sutton won’t argue with the end result after having watched Williams grow from a talented young forward into a team leader over the past three seasons.
“He’s a four-year varsity starter, a two-year captain and a complete leader of our program on and off the field,” Sutton said. “He is one of the most genuine young men I have coached.”
Williams has always been a team-first kind of player, though he says that the emphasis Sutton has put on that particular aspect of the game is something that got through to him.
So it is for Sutton as much as his teammates that he puts in the effort to become a better player to help the Lions succeed.
“I really wanted to step up for the team,” Williams said. “I know how important it is to win for Coach (Sutton). I’m just really working hard to get better.”
There is little dispute, at least in Sutton’s mind, as to which part of Williams’ game is the best developed.
“He is a strong and very quick attacker that is extremely dangerous inside the 18-yard box,” Sutton said.
Williams doesn’t disagree on how important speed is in his game.
However, he also knows that if he is going to help the Lions achieve big things this season and then go on to have a chance at a strong career on the college level, he will have to become more of a multi-dimensional player, which is exactly what he plans to focus on this spring and beyond.
“Speed is totally the most important part of my game, but I don’t want to rely (only) on my speed,” Williams said. “If I didn’t have speed, how well would I play? So I’m working on that, as well.”
As mentioned, Williams is hopeful that work will pay off with a chance to play soccer on the college level, and while Barton College in Wilson, N.C., is the only program that has offered him a scholarship thus far, he does have interest from Georgia State, Temple, Georgia Gwinnett College and Eastern University in St. Davids, Pa.
But for now, Williams’ big focus is on trying to help the Lions take the next step after last year’s semifinals appearance and not only reach the finals, but take home a state title.
“We’ve got to just focus on one game at a time,” Williams said. “No game is going to be easy at all. You’ve got to keep fighting, work hard and stuff like that.”