“We’re ready to continue our journey,” said Bryant Hornets senior striker Henry Terry as he thanked God, family, friends and his teammates on Friday. “We’re going to win a State championship this year — if anybody didn’t know that.”
That State championship bid is certainly something that Terry, senior center-midfielder Luis Lara and the rest of the Hornets have on their minds in the immediate future but Friday’s ceremony in the multi-purpose room at Bryant High School was really about a little further down the road.
Both Terry and Lara signed to continue their soccer careers and their educations under scholarship on college next fall. Terry, the son of Kent and Shannon Terry, signed with Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, while Lara signed with Hendrix College in Conway.
“I can’t think of anyone else that’s willing to work as hard as these guys are to go to the next level,” stated Hornets head coach Richard Friday. “I think both of them will be successful.”
“It came down to about four or five schools who had offered me,” Terry related. “Distance was definitely a factor for me. Big family guy, so I didn’t want to get too far away from my family. My little brothers still growing up, so I wanted to be around.
“It’s basically where I felt at home,” he stated. “Ouachita was really welcoming. The staff is great. The coaches were really welcoming to me. I met some of the soccer guys. They treated me like I was one of their own from the day I went there. It was big, just feeling at home. That’s why I chose Ouachita.
“They’ve got a good business field,” he added. “I’m looking to fall somewhere under the business. Not sure where yet, maybe finance.”
“I was considering OBU too, and Christian Brothers,” said Lara, the son of Minerva Mendoza and Pedro Lara. “The University in Tyler, Texas too. I went to a lot of showcases, just to be seen and where people would like me.
“With the help of Henry’s brother, Charlie Terry and Ricky Barrientos (both former teammates),” he continued regarding getting in touch with Hendrix. “I’ve been looking to play college soccer as long as I can remember. I’ve just been working hard and as soon as they contacted me, I went to visit. I went to their camp and I fell in love with the campus and everything about it. The coach, Matt Kern, I felt like he really wanted me there. I felt wanted. I fell in love with the program. It’s close to home, not too far away, so my parents can follow me there.”
Academically, Lara said, “I want to go into pre-law. My family and I have had a lot of problems with me being a part of DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and I know it can be a very difficult situation with a lot of problems and a lot of confusing situations. I want to help other immigrant families and children and kids with progress in that. I know Hendrix can be the next path to that dream job.
“We went from Mexico to New York,” he related. “We lived there with my uncle. He was really good at soccer and I think he kind of motivated me to play. Then, from New York, we went to Arkansas where I started playing with the Bryant soccer club with Coach Raf (Rafael Suarez) and Henry and Nicole (Inman) and all the Bryant soccer club coaches.”
“Luis and Henry, I’ve coached for a very long time,” Suarez said. “Henry and I started at 9 or 10, Luis since he was 12 or 13. Both of these young men are truly — I wish I could say that my coaching ability helped them become what they are, but it really didn’t. They’re true athletes. They’re both true leaders on the field. They push their teammates. They’ve worked hard.
“And not only did they practice with the club,” he continued, “but they played outside the club, which made them better. They did both spring and fall seasons and indoor soccer and 3v3. It surely shows that they love the sport.
“In addition, to being great soccer players, they’re also good mentors,” Suarez mentioned. “They work with the little kids at the club. They’re helping develop a new breed of soccer players. So, they go far beyond just being a good soccer player.
“I’ve enjoyed all my time with these two boys,” he concluded. “They’ve worked really hard and they deserve going to the next level.”
Inman, the head coach of the Bryant Lady Hornets, explained that she was speaking about the boys because she had coached Lara in club soccer and watched both grow through the program.
“What I appreciate about both of them, now and as they’ve developed, just how hard they have worked and how they’ve developed to become really great athletes and to become wonderful soccer players,” she said. “A lot of the guys this year who are seniors, some juniors, were some of the first players that I coached here in Bryant. I fell they’re like my kids. So, I’m super excited for these guys that they have the opportunity to go to college and play.”
“Henry is very athletic,” Friday said. “He uses that athleticism well and reads the game very well. I think he has an energy level that can take him through the next level and, if he wants to push it and develop his technical ability, even go past that and play a higher level.
“He plays up top. He plays wide. Sometimes I play him in midfield. He’s versatile. He can play any position.
“The same thing with Luis,” he continued. “He’s savvy. I don’t think the athleticism is way up there, but he makes up for it with his intelligence. He reads the game extremely well. His technical ability. Sometimes he just plays and makes people look foolish. I love his passion. I love his desire. I love sitting down and having the talks with him about tactics and stuff like that. He absorbs information like a sponge.
“You can’t do this if you don’t love it,” Friday asserted. “As much work as we put in, as we grind, and we go, if you don’t love it, it just makes you miserable. Even those guys, as much work as we put in, you can still see them, after everybody’s left, they’re still out there kicking around the ball and trying to make themselves better, trying different things. They laugh. They joke. But when it’s time to switch on, they switch on. When it’s time to cut up and enjoy it and laugh and have fun, it’s there.”
Said Lara, “Competitively, I started playing like around 10 or 11. But my dad, he raised me to love the sport. I really didn’t like it at the beginning but then, as soon as I moved to Arkansas, with all my friends, all my lifelong friends, I started to really love the game. We’d play outside every day and that’s how I really started to love it.
“Just the feeling of getting on the field,” he said. “All your problems go away. If I have homework, family problems — any kind of problem at all. It just goes away. I feel like it’s my get-away place. It’s where I have the most fun. I can forget everything and be stress-free.”
“I’ve been playing soccer for as long as I can remember,” said Terry. “Even when I wasn’t playing on a club team, I was going to my big brother’s games, playing there. I bet I started officially when I was about 4. I started being pretty serious about it.”
Like his brother, Terry ran cross country too. Charlie got a scholarship to Hendrix for running but has since transferred it to soccer.
“I mainly ran just to stay in shape for soccer,” Henry Terry said. “It helped me out. One of the things I have had on opponents is just my stamina. It’s pretty great. I ran cross country just to keep me in good shape for soccer.”
His junior year and this year, he’s been concentrating on soccer.
“It’s really a family sport,” he said. “Everybody in my family plays it. I just wanted to be the best, so I strive for that. I love everything about it, the competition, the physicality, and how everybody is, even with other teams, just the competitiveness. You’ve got to love it or you’re not going to be in the sport. It’s just a great environment.”
“We’re definitely competitive from my dad all the way to my little brother,” Terry mentioned. “Everybody loves to win. It’s not a very big family but our hearts are bigger than us, for sure.”
Friday lauded their leadership.
“They’re leaders in the fact that everybody will follow,” he said. “They’re not ones that will sit there and bark and scream and yell. But they’ll say, let’s do this or let’s try this or, ‘Hey, coach, can I say something?’
“They want that responsibility, that accountability,” the coach related. “The kids will follow. The kids need it. They’re the first to set the example. They’re going to show up every day. We’re going to do this and we’re not going to complain, we’re not going to gripe or second-guess anything. We’re going to move forward.”
“Definitely something I was born with just because I love to step up to the plate,” Terry said of the leadership. “I love to have the pressure on me just because I know I don’t want to let my teammates down. The competitive nature — it kind of comes with that.
“Basically, the captains last year picked the captains this year and I was honored enough to be able to be picked as a captain, to take that role,” he added.
Lara related, “I think it helped me a lot seeing all the people I grew up with, all the past seniors that helped me a lot. And my parents, after games and before games, I always talk to my parents, my dad about what I need to do. One of the main things he told me was a team that follows a good leader will always succeed and, if you have a team with 11 leaders, you need to be the role model, or someone needs to be the role model. So, you can start being a leader then your team can be successful.”
Friday mentioned their flexibility, their ability to play at multiple positions. But they have their favorite spots.
“I like to play in the center-mid,” said Lara. “I like to control the game, to be able to dictate the game. I’ve been moved around a lot. That’s the position I’ve mostly been playing consistently. I’ve also played the wing, sometimes striker or in the back. It just depends.”
“Honestly, I love playing striker,” Terry said. “I love being able to score for my team and being able to finish certain opportunities. I do play a couple of positions just because, wherever he needs me to play, that’s what I’m going to play for him.”
Lara agreed with his teammate about this season, a State title is the goal.
“Most of the players on this team, I’ve grown up playing with, club soccer,” he said. “I’ve known them since I was 10 and I’m 17 about to be 18. I feel comfortable with all of them. They’re like my brothers to me, like a second family, and I’m pretty confident in this team.”