Category: Player Profiles

AFC Mobile adds U-Mobile standout Cam Cranton

MOBILE – AFC Mobile is proud to add University of Mobile midfielder Cameron Cranton to its roster for the 2018 Gulf Coast Premier League Season.

As a Baker High School standout, Cranton was the Mobile-area High School Player of the Year, and was named the Gulf Coast Rangers U-18 Player of the Year in 2015.

“I grew up in Mobile, played here, and I’m excited to get to represent my city at the next level,” Cranton said.

Cranton is a versatile player who can play in multiple attacking positions. He appeared in 11 matches for the Rams in their run to an NAIA quarterfinal berth and earned Southern State Athletics Conference All-Freshman honors. Cranton will bring a creative spark to an AFC Mobile team that averaged 1.5 goals per match in the GCPL Eastern Conference last season.

AFC Mobile is Mobile’s minor league soccer team, competing in the Gulf Coast Premier League. Our season begins in May and runs through July. All home games will be played at the Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb Complex – “The Lip.”  Tickets begin at just $5, and children 12 and under are free with adult admission. A full schedule and information about season tickets will be available soon. Select merchandise is available now at afcmobile.net.  Follow AFC Mobile on all your favorite social media platforms to keep up-to-date on additional information about the 2018 season.

Contact: Sean Landry

(251) 635-7473

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AFC Mobile adds Spring Hill College midfielder Ibrahima Ndaw

MOBILE- AFC Mobile has added Spring Hill College midfielder/forward Ibrahima Ndaw to its roster for the 2018 Gulf Coast Premier League Season.

Ndaw, whose brother was a goalkeeper for AFC Mobile last year, is a former prep standout at St. Paul’s Episcopal High School in Mobile. Ndaw led the St. Paul’s Episcopal Boys Soccer Team to the 2012 Class 5A State Semifinals during his junior year. As a senior at St. Paul’s, he was named to the Mobile Press-Register’s All Region Team.

Following high school, Ndaw stayed local by enrolling at Spring Hill College. In 2017, the Badgers achieved their best ever record in men’s soccer, finishing the year with 12 wins and only 3 losses. For his 8 goals and 8 assists, Ndaw was named to the 2017 United Soccer Coaches NAIA Men’s All-South Region Team.

This season will not be Ndaw’s Gulf Coast Premier League debut, as for the past two years he played in the GCPL for Biloxi City FC. AFC Mobile is proud to bring him home for the 2018 GCPL season.

“I’m excited to be a part of AFC Mobile. Last year you could feel the energy of Mobile when we came to play them. I can’t wait for the new season to start and to play in front of the many fans we have,” Ndaw stated.

AFC Mobile is Mobile’s minor league soccer team, competing in the Gulf Coast Premier League. Our season begins in May and runs through July. All home games will be played at the Archbishop Oscar H. Lipscomb Complex – “The Lip.”  Tickets begin at just $5, and children 12 and under are free with adult admission. A full schedule and information about season tickets will be available soon. Select merchandise is available now at afcmobile.net.  Follow AFC Mobile on all your favorite social media platforms to keep up-to-date on additional information about the 2018 season.

Brent Grube: Goalkeeper and Geometry Teacher

You’re used to seeing AFC Mobile goalkeeper Brent Grube cutting down angles in his penalty box, but off the pitch, the Mobile net-minder spends his days teaching about them as a 10th grade geometry teacher at Mary G. Montgomery High School.

Grube knew he wanted to be a teacher as early as his 9th grade year, and has since been inspired by a number of great teachers and supportive parents who helped him reach that decision.

“I had a lot of good teachers that kind of helped me decide,” Grube said. “They seemed fun and interesting and I thought, ‘This seems like something I could enjoy doing.'”

Grube said it was hard to choose a favorite teacher, but two in particular stood out.

“My ninth-grade math teacher was probably one of my favorites–Mr. Signori,” Grube said. “After him I had Mr. Castilline. They both showed me that, yeah, you can actually be kind of fun in math.”

Grube, does more than just teach at MGM: he’s also the varsity girl’s soccer coach. He said that the most rewarding thing about coaching is getting to see how his players progress through the years.

“I didn’t quite expect it at first, but that was the part I really started to enjoy, was getting to see that progress that they’re making.” Grube said. “Usually we’re going to see someone for several years, whereas normally in the classroom you see someone for a semester or a year and they move on past you. You don’t get to see their progress every year.”

Grube has been playing soccer since he was four-years old. Like many young players, he excelled in other sports as well, but he knew soccer was the one that stood out. He was a goalkeeper from day one.

“I kind of always tended to play in goal,” Grube said. “My brother was a forward, so anytime we were playing around, he would always tell me to go stand over there so he could shoot. So I just kind of naturally developed that rivalry with him and I think that ended up playing to some of my strengths. Probably somewhere around 5th or 6th grade I started really playing competitively in goal and that was where I got my first taste of really enjoying the higher competition of being in goal.”

That higher level of competition is something Grube is always looking for. He said that his favorite thing about playing for AFC Mobile is being a part of a high-level, competitive team for the first time since he was in college.

“That’s been the best thing for me, just being able to be out there and really push myself to play better and have a bunch of guys who are trying to do the same thing and trying to really build soccer in this area,” Grube said.

This weekend, AFC Mobile will be honoring the educators of our community by hosting our first Teacher Appreciation Night. All school employees will be admitted free of charge with a school ID. General admission tickets are only $5. As always, kids 12 and under are admitted free. Kickoff against the Louisiana Fire will be Saturday, June 24th at 7 p.m. at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex off Michael Boulevard near Airport and I-65. Come support your local grassroots soccer team and join us in honoring our educators!

AFC Mobile’s Brian Singler: Sergeant, Sheriff, Soccer Player

Forward Brian Singler was wearing a uniform long before he suited up to play for AFC Mobile.

Not only is Singler a deputy sheriff in Baldwin County, he is also a sergeant in the Army National Guard, a veteran of the War on Terror, and a military police officer.

This military has always been a part of Singler’s life. His father was a career Navy man and provided the inspiration for Singler to join the the armed forces, though he didn’t join the National Guard until he was 33.

“I’ve always had that desire,” Singler said. “It’s always been back there, a feeling of wanting to do it.”

Singler said that the most rewarding thing about being a part of the National Guard is being able to do something to serve more than just the Mobile Bay area and Alabama.

“I love this nation,” Singler said. “I went overseas in 2015 to 2016 and now I feel when people say ‘thank you for your service’ I can say ‘no problem’ or I can have something for them to be thankful for. Just to be able to serve this country is the most fulfilling to me.”

Soccer has been a part of Singler’s life as long as the military has. Both of his parents played, and he’s been playing since he was four years old. He moved to Baldwin County 20 years ago and takes pride in representing the Mobile area on the pitch.

“To represent this city, there’s no words that can express that. The team that we have, the brothers; we have a good bond. It’s almost like Christmas morning every time you put that jersey on.”

Balancing his day job as a deputy sheriff, his military duties, and his commitments to AFC Mobile has been a challenge, but Singler said he’s found the secret.

“Well, I have understanding bosses and an understanding wife as well,” he said. “They know how much I love this sport and how much of a part of my life it is and the passion I have for the sport.”

This Saturday, June 10th, AFC Mobile will be honoring the men and women in the armed forces by holding its first ever Military Appreciation Night. Kickoff against Biloxi City FC at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex is at 7 p.m. All veterans and active duty personnel are admitted free with their military ID. As always, kids 12 and under are also admitted free. All other tickets are just $5.

Player signing

AFC Mobile adds local high school standouts to roster

AFC Mobile has added two local high school players to the roster ahead of the team’s first away game of the 2017 Gulf Coast Premier League season. Midfielder Clairy Kengeye joins the club after helping lead W.P. Davidson High School to the the AHSAA 7A State Championship game before falling to Oak Mountain in a penalty shootout.

Clairy Kengeye
Photo credit: Mike Kittrell/preps@al.com

“Clairy brings a lot of skill and work ethic and can bring some power to the attack,” said AFC Mobile head coach Nate Nicholas.

Bayside Academy’s Dawson Jellenc has been added to the roster to solidify the AFC Mobile defense ahead of three consecutive games on the road. Jellenc’s Bayside team made a deep run in the AHSAA 1A-3A playoffs before losing to Indian Springs 3-1 in the semifinals.

“Dawson and Clairy have played for me for years so they bring a familiarity to my style of play and expectations,” Nicholas said.

Dawson Jellenc
Photo credit hudl.com

The two additions could see action this weekend when AFC Mobile travels to Kenner, Louisiana to take on the Louisiana Fire. The Fire lost 3-2 to Jackson, Mississippi’s Gaffa FC in the first week of the season. AFC Mobile will be looking to secure its first win after a tight 2-1 loss in Week 1 to Pensacola’s Gulf Coast Texans. Saturday’s kickoff is set for 5:00 p.m. at Lions Field in Kenner.

AFC Mobile will return home to the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex (“The Lip”) on Saturday, June 10th for a 7:00 p.m. match-up against Biloxi City FC, a budding rivalry being coined the “Forgotten Coast Cup.” Tickets are only $5.00, and kids 12 and under will be admitted free of charge. RSVP today and invite your friends!  Be sure to follow AFC Mobile on all your favorite social media platforms: Facebook: AFC Mobile; Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat: @AFCMobile.

 

Nate Nicholas

Meet AFC Mobile’s head coach Nate Nicholas

From the first kick of practice, Nate Nicholas is in motion. Arms folded, pacing, towering over most of his new AFC Mobile squad, bellowing over the sound of his drills. “Faster,” he says. “Always faster, always more pressure, always more shots.”

“My favorite team is Liverpool and Jurgen Klopp likes to play the way I like to play,” Nicholas said. “He’s a little more committed to it than I am, but I like to high press. I like high energy. I like everything to be fast. I like quick passing like Pep Guardiola, but I don’t like passing for passing’s sake. I want to get forward as quickly as possible, press the ball as quickly as possible, keep it on their side as much as possible. I like to keep the ball and for it to look pretty, but most of all, I like to win.”

Nicholas’s high-speed style goes all the way back to his days as a well-recruited club player. He was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, but moved all over the country to follow his father’s work in the oil fields before settling in Slidell, Louisiana for his high school years. There, he garnered enough attention to draw scholarship offers from William Carey, Belhaven, and The University of Mobile, among others.

“If I had stayed in Hattiesburg, I probably wouldn’t have reached the level I did, but I moved to Texas and California, which are hotbeds for soccer,” Nicholas said. “I played everything growing up. Every season it was… I wanted to be Major League in whatever that was, but I was always naturally gifted toward soccer. I always excelled more in that. Soccer was just always the one that I was the best at.”

As a player, Nicholas brought his father’s oil-field work ethic to bear on his opponents. His natural talent was augmented by his love of physical play, his speed, and his six-foot-plus stature. His desire earned him four years of play at the University of Mobile, where he became a crucial part of the 2002 national championship-winning Rams team.

While at the University of Mobile, Nicholas played under coach Peter Fuller, who would go on to oversee the academy of the Philadelphia Union in MLS, where he also served as a first-team assistant. Fuller’s tutelage shaped his nascent coaching career, when Nicholas took a job at the Alabama School of Math and Science during his junior season with the Rams.

“That was a fun one,” Nicholas said. “It was an interesting group of kids. You never expect to go to a soccer game and hear about flux capacitors and all kinds of crazy science and math stuff.”

Nicholas stayed at ASMS for two seasons before accepting an assistant coach position at UMS-Wright in Mobile, motivated by a desire to stay in his adopted home town. There, his career nearly ran into a dead-end. Desperate to find a head coaching job, he left Old Shell Road for the head coaching job at Baldwin County High School.

“That was one rough, miserable year in my life,” Nicholas said. “They were good kids, but it was an interesting experience in my life. It was a very unique situation. I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into, and I was still young, so leading a program at a school like that, that’s a little bit country, maybe not soccer oriented, was different for me because everywhere I’d been before was fairly soccer-minded.”

His team won just two games. He left after just one season to return to UMS-Wright as the head coach. Ignoring his own doubts about his career, he took over a team newly promoted to the 5A division, into a crowded area dominated by arch-rival St. Paul’s Episcopal, a high school sports juggernaut. In that first season, his team won both fixtures against the Saints en route to a state runner-up finish, dispelling any doubts the burgeoning star might have had about his career.

For the next three years, Nicholas’s team was ranked No. 1 in the state. He won back-to-back state titles, took down 6A powerhouses, and established UMS as one of the top teams in the Southeast. After the 2012 season, Nicholas traveled down Old Shell Road for a new challenge as head coach of the McGill-Toolen Catholic High School boys, who he has since led to a state runner-up finish.

“The crazy thing is, I was the same coach for a 2-15 team as I was for a state runner-up team,” Nicholas said. “It just shows how important players are to a coach. Without good quality players, the best coach is nothing. Even a bad coach can look good with quality players.”

As a coach, Nicholas has won more than 150 games at the high school level, driven by his undying competitive instinct. But his career, including his decision to become the first coach in AFC Mobile’s history, is driven by a deeper desire–to teach his players and pass that competitiveness and resolve on to his teams.

“There’s nothing more annoying to me than seeing a coach that’s in it for himself,” Nicholas said. “That’s very against what I am. I enjoy accolades and winning, and I would be a fool to say I don’t, but I don’t want it to be about me. I want it to be about the team and our goals, not my goals. If I preach to my team that the team’s goals will lead to your individual goals, and I don’t believe that myself, then I’m a hypocrite and I don’t want to do that. I want to practice what I preach.”

His goals for AFC Mobile are simple.

“Win. Win every game,” he said. “I want everybody to be like ‘Oh crap, Mobile’s here, and they’re going to win it, as long as they’re in it.”

Amos Ndikumana and KC Espoir

Local high school standouts join AFC Mobile

Graduation has not happened in Mobile, but some of the area’s top high school soccer players are already transitioning to the next level.

Njandagizi “KC” Espoir and Amos Ndikumana of Murphy High School and Matt Merrill of Mary G. Montgomery High School are names of note in Mobile soccer circles. This Sunday they join AFC Mobile in the Gulf Coast Premier League before graduating school the following Friday, and beginning their transition to college soccer.

Matt Merrill
Matt Merrill playing for Mary G. Montgomery High School

At Mary G. Montgomery High School, Merrill finished his senior year with 15 goals and 4 assists. Starting this fall, he will play college soccer for the University of Mobile.

Merrill said he became aware of AFC Mobile when coach Nate Nicholas discussed the team with him in the spring.

“As soon as my high school season was over I tried out,” Merrill said.

The level of play in the GCPL, a US Soccer Federation-sanctioned elite league, has Merrill motivated.

“I’m excited about the high level of competition and getting to know new teammates,” Merrill said.

KC Espoir (left) playing for Murphy High School

Over at Murphy High School, KC Espoir accounted for 18 goals and 5 assists in 2017. He committed to play his college soccer at William Carey University in Mississippi. A dominant force for the Panthers, he quickly pointed out that he too is eager for the higher quality of the GCPL and AFC Mobile, and enthusiastic to have high-level soccer back in the Port City.

“[The GCPL] is more technical, more physical, and much faster [than high school soccer],” he said. “I’m excited for Mobile to finally have a team…and the timing is great, since I just finished my time in high school.”

Amos Ndikumana (left) playing at Murphy High School

Amos Ndikumana, another member of the first Murphy squad to make the AHSAA playoffs since 2013, will join AFC Mobile for its debut match. Ndikumana finished his senior season with 10 goals and 8 assists. During his high school season, Ndikumana was named Alabama High School Player of the Week by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. He will join Espoir at William Carey University in the fall.

“I’m very happy to have [KC] with me on AFCM; we play well together and seem to know what the other one is thinking,” Ndikumana said. “It’s exciting to get to play with him a few more times.”

His family is also thrilled for the opportunity that both AFC Mobile and soccer have brought him,

“[My family] is very excited for me,” he said. “They told me to keep working hard and to have faith that everything will work out for my future.”

Merrill, Espoir and Ndikumana will have the opportunity to compete with several players with professional and semi-professional experience for a spot in the starting lineup for AFC Mobile.

The season begins this Sunday, May 14 at 7:00 PM at the Archbishop Lipscomb Athletic Complex. Tickets start at $5 and season tickets may be purchased for $20 at www.afcmobile.net.