The Press Newspaper
Clay senior soccer standout Rick Dempsey finished his four-year career with 112 goals and was a four-time first-team All-Northwest Ohio State Soccer Association selection. He scored 29 regular-season goals as a freshman, which he considers his best season, and followed with 29 as a sophomore and 31 as a junior.
This year, the 5-9, 145-pound forward had 23 goals and six assists to lead Clay to a 7-6-4 record.
"We had a successful year," said first-year coach Richard Parrish, whose team finished second behind Ottawa Hills in the NWOSSA. "With injuries and everything else, we had a really good year."
In Dempsey, Parrish had a player who could score on anyone, at almost any time.
"Probably his best skill is his balance on the ball," Parrish said. "He's just hard to knock off the ball no matter what you do. His balance, coupled with his foot skills, make him a challenge for anybody to cover. You can't stab at the ball because he'll just move the ball away, and you can't knock him off the ball because of his balance."
Dempsey was a first-team all-league and second-team all-district pick this season, but even that, Parrish said, doesn't tell the whole story.
"That's not representative of his skills," the coach said. "He was first-team (all-district) last year and second-team the year before, so he's certainly a rising star in the area. He should be playing somewhere next year, so people should look out for him. He's blazing fast and has incredible quickness. Couple that with fundamentals and foot skills and an inability knock him off the ball, he's a hard kid to cover and he's going to go a long ways."
Dempsey, 17, who said his speed and quickness "just kind of comes natural," took up soccer in the first grade.
He admitted he is one of those athletes who pretty much takes a soccer ball with him wherever he goes.
"I didn't think I was going to play varsity my freshman year," he said. "You usually don't play as a freshman. We had a lot of seniors who had my back in case I messed up. It made it easier to fall into the high school atmosphere."
Starting in the eighth grade, Dempsey honed his soccer skills by playing on travel teams at Pacesetter Park in Sylvania. His natural talent didn't take long to emerge.
"I just had to stay focused," Dempsey said. "You say what you want to do and just keep working at it. I put in a lot of work."
He said his strengths are "reading the play and figuring out where the ball is going to go next. You just see the play and figure out what's going to happen."
Dempsey said scoring his 100th career goal, against Ottawa Hills, was one of the highlights of his career.
This season, he said getting eliminated early in postseason play was exciting, but he's ready to move on.
"I had a good season, I guess," Dempsey said. "I didn't score as much as I did in the past, but we were more team-oriented."
He said he plans to play soccer and study business in college, and is considering Findlay, Tiffin, and Owens.