C.J. Bradley is used to accomplishing his goals.
But they usually go in the back of the net.
The 6-foot, 150-pound Hough High forward has 92 goals in his high school career that started at Davidson Day in eighth grade. He scored 13 in eighth grade. With 79 high school goals, he could make history this season.
Only 34 public school players have scored 100 career goals, according to the N.C. High School Athletic Association. Only two of those are from Mecklenburg County. Charlotte Catholic’s Mike Melvin had 153 goals from 1989 to 1992, and Olympic’s Matt Brown had 122 from 2004 to 2007.
While Bradley’s ability to finish has earned him a lot of accolades, and has helped the three-time all-state selection lead his teams to a lot of victories, there’s still one final goal that has eluded him.
“A state championship is the goal this season,” said Bradley, who transferred to Hough as a junior last season. “That’s all I really want. I really don’t care about all the stats. I just want to help my team win it all.”
Bradley, 18, scored 26 goals and had 12 assists last season. He’s one of six starters back from a team that went 22-6 overall and 14-0 in MECKA 4A conference play, advancing to the 4A state semifinals before losing to eventual state champion, Asheville Roberson.
Senior center midfielder Blake Marin will also play a key part in directing the offense. On defense, three seniors anchor the team: goalkeeper Bryce Deeringer, central defender ZacGallo, and outside back Ben McGonnell.
How quickly the new half of the lineup fits in will dictate what this Husky team is capable of early on. Coach David Smith notes his team “will have to rely on a lot of young guys.”
While Smith is confident all the guys will be up to the challenge, he is expecting even more from Bradley this season, on and off the field.
“C.J. Bradley came right in from the start last year and fit right into this team like he’d been here for years,” Hough coach David Smith said. “But this year, we need him to step up even more and be a leader for this team. That’s a lot to ask from a guy that was brand new to the team (Hough) last year, but we feel like he can handle it.”
Bradley has taken on his new role as a leader, admitting he has to become more vocal. The senior also says he tries to lead by example in every practice and in every drill.
“It’s a new challenge and a new position on this team for me,” Bradley admitted. “But I am passionate about doing whatever this team needs me to do to win. We were one game away from the state championship last year, and we want to get back and win it. Seeing the (Hough) girls’ team win another state championship (in May) also makes us even more motivated to keep up with them.”
For someone who is used to achieving his goals, few who know him will be surprised if he is where he wants to be come November.
Bradley has proved himself every year.
As an 8th-grader on the Davidson Day varsity team, he scored 13 goals.
Then, as a freshman, Bradley scored 25 goals, earning all-state and Southern Piedmont Athletic Association (SPAA) conference players of the year honors while leading his Patriot team to a program-best 13 wins.
As a sophomore, Bradley again was an all-state performer with 28 goals.
Then last year, Bradley made the jump from a small private school to the state’s biggest class (4A) on one of its top teams without missing a beat (26 goals, 12 assists).
This season, Bradley hopes to earn a chance to keep playing soccer at the next level, where Denison University, Lafayette College (Pa.), Ohio Northern and Washington & Lee are all recruiting him.
While his focus isn’t solely on scoring, Bradley admits it’s a thrill.
“There’s nothing better than scoring a big goal for your team when they need it most,” said Bradley, listing his game-winner against Pfafftown Reagan in the playoffs last year and his game-winning score in a 2-1 overtime victory over North Meck last season as two favorites. “The celebration with your teammates right after a goal is one of the best feelings. I think it motivates you to sprint that last 10 extra yards, that your defender might not do.”
Observer Fall Sports Previews
This week, the Observer is previewing high school fall sports. Tennis, cross-country, volleyball and girls golf previews were published earlier this week and can be found at charlotteobserver.com/preps. Football runs Sunday.