How do you win the Boys’ Soccer Player of the Season award after missing half the season? Average nearly a goal and assist per game when you return and score game-winners in the semifinals and finals, like Hopkinton senior Jacob Rockwood.
After coming back from a broken collarbone, Rockwood scored just 90 seconds into his first game. He had eight goals and seven assists in nine regular-season matches. And he scored the only goal in the Division III final, giving the Hawks a 1-0 win over Stevens and their second title in four years.
“He’s our superstar and he got it done when it mattered most,” Hopkinton Coach Scott Zipke said after the final.
Rockwood found the championship goal after fighting through a scrum out front. He declared his team had come into the match, “ready to do battle.” They were both signs of a player who had developed physical confidence.
“This year he was able to go into tackles with the ball at his foot, and there would be two or three guys there, and somehow he’d come out on the other side with the ball still at his foot,” Zipke said. “He always had natural skill, but now you add in some size and strength, and it made him pretty dominant.”
Rockwood’s 46th minute goal in the semifinal against Derryfield came from 30 yards out and belongs on a highlight reel. The sequence leading up to the goal wasn’t so pretty, but it personified Rockwood.
“It was this series of bad touches, including from Jacob, before a completely sublime shot, and that’s what he’s capable of doing,” Zipke said. “It just doesn’t matter what’s going on, he can kind of always make it work.”
Rockwood saw some playing time as a freshman on Hopkinton’s 2013 title team. He started at striker as a sophomore when the Hawks lost in the finals on penalty kicks, and he was again the starting striker last year when Hopkinton reached the semifinals. This season he moved into an attacking midfielder roll and the change suited him.
“I liked it because when I was up top it was easy for the defense to always keep an eye on me, but in the attacking center mid position I got to hang back and not all eyes were on me,” Rockwood said. “It gave me more freedom to distribute the ball and I think one of my strong suits is seeing the field, so that position allowed me to be in the playmaker role, which made me look good and helped me make my teammates look good.”
Rockwood’s teammates missed him when he was out for the first half of the season, but they were also inspired by it. Tucker Windhurst, Hopkinton’s outstanding senior center back, said the team, “wanted to win for Jacob,” while he was out. Rockwood found motivation in his absence as well.
“It was super tough knowing you couldn’t help your teammates, but I just used that as fuel to work hard so I could come back,” Rockwood said.
Hopkinton, which is loaded with talented players, went 7-1 without Rockwood and then assimilated seamlessly when he returned.
“We had a whole cast of very good players, so we found a way to fill the hole Jacob left when he was out,” Zipke said. “And then when he came back it was just like icing on the cake.”
Rockwood is also an outstanding basketball player – a play-making point guard – but he said soccer is his favorite sport. He enjoys the full-team effort it takes to succeed, which made it even harder for him to miss the first part of this season. He also finds some deep-rooted comfort in the sport he’s been playing since he was 3-years-old.
“Soccer practice will help me focus so when I get home I can focus on homework and things like that,” Rockwood said. “It’s also a stress reliever for me. When I’m on the field, I can just leave my problems off the field.”