Editor’s note: Our head coaches have been invited to submit one nominee for the MLT Athlete of the Year from their team from the past school year. The Murray Ledger & Times will open an online poll for the readers to choose one athlete from each school (Calloway High School, Murray High School and Murray State). Keep reading our series and watch for the opportunity to cast your vote.
MURRAY— Zak Mathis wrapped up his accomplished career with Murray High’s soccer team last season, but his legacy will be cemented in the record books for years to come.
Mathis was nominated as Murray Ledger & Times Athlete of the Year at Murray High by head boy’s soccer coach Jared Rosa. The nomination, on paper at least, seemed like a no-brainer, as Mathis accounted for 38 of his team’s 57 goals last season, as well as six assists. His junior year, he recorded a team-high 27 goals and preceded that with 17 his sophomore season and four his freshman season.
The most prestigious moment for Mathis this past season occurred on Oct. 4, when he broke the single-season goals record with his 37th goal, breaking the school record of 36 previously set by Cole Riley in 2015. Mathis’ knack for scoring even helped his teammate, Nick Bokeno, achieve notoriety. Bokeno set the Murray High career assists record last season with 63.
Mathis was just a freshman in ’15, having little idea to what his future held. However, another former Tiger record holder foreshadowed the meteoric rise that was soon to come.
“Craig Schwettman, the previous record holder, told me my freshman year that I was going to break his record, and I thought there was no way I could,” Mathis said. “But I just kept improving and giving it my all, and I achieved something I never thought I could.”
Mathis also pointed to another significant moment from his senior season that made his last year memorable. The Tigers managed to knock off Marshall County twice in the same year for the first time in 19 years.
While the Tiger forward has firmly cemented his legacy, he had his doubts along the way.
“My freshman year, I personally struggled, and only had four goals that season,” Mathis said. “And then, in between my freshman and sophomore years, I played with my travel team, Revolution, and I grew in height, on the field, and developed mentally and came back my sophomore year and scored 17 goals. After my sophomore year, I worked in the offseason with my team, and my junior year I scored 27.”
Upon realizing he had a chance to break a scoring record during his junior year, Mathis stopped playing baseball for Murray in order to train in soccer. That sacrifice ultimately paid off for Mathis, and his 38 goals ranked third in the 1st Region and No. 10 in the state.
While Mathis was carving his path at Murray, his former teammate on MCC Revolution, Jacob Smith, was forging his at Calloway County. Smith, whose 51 goals last season ranked No. 1 in the state, said the two have been playing together since they were 9. And while they were enemies when they met on the pitch during crosstown rivalries, Smith said Mathis’ scoring prowess and knowledge for the game made the contests fun.
“Zak is a great player and is extremely athletic, which fits his playing style well,” Smith said. “He’s super quick off his feet and he can jump like no other. Matching up against him is always gonna be a challenge. And on top of all that, he is a good person. He’s been one of my friends for a long time now.”
While Mathis’ soccer career may have come to a close after an 11-6-1 year with the Tigers, he has promising plans for his future. The former Tiger forward will attend West Kentucky Community & Technical College in Paducah and major in radiology.