Rare bird

JAMES MILLER

BYRON — Senior James Miller was a scorer and playmaker for the Byron boys soccer team this fall.

The forward/attacking midfielder netted 29 goals with 24 assists, both area-highs. He set a new school record for assists.

Miller, who captured Division 4 third team All-State honors from the Michigan High School Soccer Coaches Association, led the 17-4 Eagles to the Mid-Michigan Activities Conference title and a berth in the district championship game.

The area’s lone all-stater was indeed a rare bird. Not many standout scorers are so unselfish and skilled as a passers, Byron head coach Greg Williams said.

“It’s a pretty unusual combination,” Williams said. “You’re usually one or the other.”

Miller’s progression as a player saw him become more unselfish as the years went by.

“(Before) he was always looking for the goal and now, he’s always looking for the right play,” Williams said. “He does that every game. He looks for the right play and he’s such a complete player.”

Williams said he could insert Miller into nearly any position.

“I played him everywhere but goalie,” Williams said. “He’s an all-around great athlete. He plays three sports. He does track in the spring, basketball in the winter and soccer in the fall. He’s tough at all of them.”

Miller eclipsed the single-season assists record of 14 set by Williams’ son, Matt Williams, in 2018. Matt Williams was also a prolific all-around player for the Eagles, winning The Argus-Press Player of the Year award in 2019 and 2020.

“Setting that record was super cool,” Miller said. “I don’t know. Everything just went together this season for our team.”

Miller said his biggest improvement was his vision on the field.

“Where I should pass the ball and where the best play is at the time and what to do with the ball — either passing it or deciding when to take it,” he said.

Miller, 6-foot-1 and 160-pounds, said winning the league title and reaching the district championship game were the highlights of the season.

“It was an amazing achievement,” he said.

Byron opened districts at home, blanking Bath 5-0. In that one, the Eagles led 2-0 at halftime before Miller added three goals in the second half.

Then came perhaps the most dramatic win of the season for Byron — a 3-2 shootout win in the district semifinals over Genesee Christian at Lansing Christian High School.

Miller tied it at 2 with a little more than 22 minutes left in regulation. After regulation and two 10-minute overtimes ended without a goal, the game went to a shootout, where Miller converted one of Byron’s attempts to help the Eagles edge the Soldiers 4-3.

“Winning the district semifinal in the shootout, that was really cool,” Miller said. “I’d say that was one of the more satisfying wins of the season.”

The Eagles’ season ended with a 5-2 loss to Lansing Christian in the title game.

The Argus-Press 2021 Boys All-Area

Soccer Team

Player of the Year

James Miller, Byron

The forward keyed Byron’s MMAC championship and run to the district championship game. Miller also captured all-district, all-region and first-team all-MMAC recognition, along with winning the team’s Coaches Award.

First Team

Mason Stark, Byron

Stark scored 25 times with eight assists. The sophomore midfielder — who captured first-team all-MMAC recognition — was named to the all-district squad.

Ben Anibal, Byron

Anibal, a senior midfielder, scored 21 goals and added 13 assists. The first-team all-MMAC selection was also all-district squad.

Matthew Shattuck,

Owosso

The freshman forward led the Trojans in scoring. He recorded 13 goals and was voted to the Flint Metro League and all-district honorable mention units.

Miguel Fajardo,

Laingsburg

The senior scored 12 goals with one assist to lead the Wolfpack and 8-4-2 record. He was named to the all-Greater Lansing Activities Conference first team.

Charles DeWeese,

Owosso

The senior midfielder was selected to the Flint Metro League second team and all-district second team. DeWeese also received Owosso’s MVP award and Defensive award.

Luke Tuller, Corunna

Tuller scored eight goals with one assist to lead the Cavaliers in scoring. The senior midfielder was an honorable mention in the Flint Metro League and was also an all-district player.

Hunter Babcock, Owosso

Babcock, a junior midfielder/forward, was named to the Flint Metro League third team and all-district second team. Babcock, the recipient of Owosso’s Offensive Award, registered seven goals and nine assists.

Aiden Dempsey,

Chesaning

The senior center-midfielder captured first-team all-MMAC honors and was voted the team MVP. The all-district selection had 12 assists and one goal.

Laurent Lanfranconi, Corunna

The senior defender was named to the Flint Metro League third team. He had two goals and was all-district.

Justin Frye, Byron

The senior forward had eight goals and eight assists and was named to the MMAC first team. Voted Byron’s MVP, he played all positions on the field — including goalkeeper during a shootout victory over Genesee Christian in the district semifinals.

Billy Bailey, Byron

A first-team all-MMAC goalie, Bailey had an .884 save percentage — including a .924 mark in conference play. The senior posted three shutouts.

HONORABLE MENTION

Luke Snyder, Laingsburg, GK

Brayden Thomas, Laingsburg, MF

Hawkins Whitehead, Byron, D

Tanner McCann, Perry, MF

Zachary Harlan, Chesaning, F

Landon Soule, Chesaning, GK

Tyler Hufnagel, Owosso, CD

Dylan Hulliberger, Laingsburg, F

Codey Harlan, Chesaning, Jr., MF

Tanner McCann, Perry, Sr., MF

Jaxon Smith, Durand, F

Simon Erfourth, Owosso, MF

Evan Burr, Durand, F

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.