Coal Ridge soccer stud Ezra Williams inspired while living in Uganda
Ezra Williams was living in Uganda on a religious mission when he discovered what many call the beautiful game.
“It’s the everyday culture,” Williams said. “You go home, listen to the game on the radio and play on the dirt fields. It’s every aspect of life there.”
Williams is a high school senior and a leading force on Coal Ridge’s sizzling soccer team. On Wednesday, the Titans breezed by Sierra 3-1 to win the opening round of the 2022 Colorado High School Athletics Association State Championships.
No more than 15 minutes into the game, Williams notched his 25th goal of the season via a highlight reel header, he hoisted past the opposing team’s goalkeeper.
Williams is originally from New Castle but moved to Uganda with his parents when he was 5. When he came back to the Colorado River Valley when he was 10, he brought back with him Uganda’s fanatical infatuation with soccer.
“That really started to develop my love for the game,” Williams said. “Seeing the kids play it, it was pretty impactful for me, and it made me want to learn that as well.”
Williams’ embryonic stages of soccer success were also influenced greatly by his father, Kenneth Williams, Coal Ridge’s assistant coach and a former professional soccer player. Kenneth grew up playing soccer in Liberia, then playing collegiate soccer for Louisiana College (now called Louisiana Christian University) before competing in professional ball in Nepal.
Perhaps this is why it’s no surprise Coal Ridge soccer has only lost one game all season and heads into next week’s second-round playoff against Faith Christian seeded third in the all the 3A/2A League.
It’s taken clutch play after clutch play by the cleats of Williams and his pass-accurate and highly reliable teammates. During the match against Vail Mountain earlier this year, he netted a late-game goal to salvage a tie. A more recent derby against Rifle, Williams hit the game winner with 10 minutes remaining.
“You know, whenever I see the time starting to tick down and we’re losing, the one thing that goes through my head is, someone needs to make this happen,” Williams said. “And it’s me stepping up into that role.”
As to what a game-winner feels like?
“It’s an adrenaline rush,” he said. “When that happens it makes me think of what’s going into that moment — the work we put into being able to enjoy those moments. It’s also a reminder that it’s not something that I do alone.”
Both Williams and Coal Ridge head coach Michael Mikalakis credit their defensive line, Derrick Centeno and Zion Williams, and midfielder Josh Chamarro for their undeniable efforts in stopping the ball downfield and shipping upfield like it’s UPS overnight. Chamarro and fellow teammate Alexis Serna have combined for 20 assists so far this season.
When they get the ball to Williams, it’s like clockwork ballet style.
“He makes the stops that we need, and he’s able to get us a goal or two when we definitely need it,” Mikalakis said. “He’s dependable, he’s a great competitor and he definitely puts a lot of pride in the team over himself.”
“It’s not his goals —it’s the team’s goals that help the team win.”
Mikalakis has head coached soccer at Coal Ridge for the past 10 years. He said, “It’s awesome to have an opportunity to be a part of a group of kids that are both excited to play and have the ancillary talent to compete.”
Williams agrees. But with the second-round match against Faith Christian just around the corner (game is Tuesday at Coal Ridge, game time is likely 3:30-4 p.m.), he’s more focused on what happens on the pitch next week.
“The confidence is high, the expectations are high. Reflecting on last year, the loss in the first round to a pretty low seed brings back memories of that,” Williams said. “At the same time, it’s recognizing we’re the No. 3 seed and we have a job to do.”
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