By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (April 8, 2016) — Aaron Veloz doesn’t mind being known as the finisher, the one putting many of the goals on the scoreboard and helping his team to victory after victory.
But Veloz, a junior striker who has scored seven goals in three playoff wins for Stephenville, isn’t trying to be a public star. He could make the pass to set up a goal and be just as happy. Ditto if he was in the midfield, winning 50/50 balls to start attacks.
In short, Veloz just wants to win. He doesn’t care how.
It’s a humble approach to the game that comes easy to Veloz, 17, thanks to his equally humble upbringing. His father left school in Mexico to work full time and provide for his mother and siblings. Later, he left Mexico altogether, also to better his family. He settled just outside Stephenville with his wife and eldest daughter, with Aaron next in a lineup of four children.
And the example of a hard working dairy and family man has not been lost on his kids. Three of them are fluent in both Spanish and English, and the youngest is on his way to becoming bilingual as well. They all either were or are good students.
Aaron Veloz has an easy smile and a quick laugh. If he isn’t playing soccer with the Jackets, with friends he’s made who play on a club team at Tarleton or recreationally in Granbury, he seems most content surrounded by family and his girlfriend, some traditional Mexicano style music in the background, a few modern American tunes thrown in as well. On this particular night, he’s celebrating his sister’s birthday, but even when she is the center of attention, the big game is never far from anyone’s mind.
“I don’t want to keep talking about it, I don’t want to get nervous,” Veloz told his sister two nights before the beginning of the Region I-4A boys soccer tournament, but the subject kept coming up.
It’s all his family can think about. It means as much to them as a regional semifinal football contest would to many other parents in town.
“I have a feeling inside me that Stephenville will win,” says Aaron’s father, showing the same optimism that led him to Stephenville to begin with. “I just feel like they will do it.”
The undefeated Yellow Jackets are challenging also undefeated Life Oak Cliff at 6:30 p.m. Friday at Wildcat Stadium in Kennedale. It’s a regional semifinal with the winner returning to the pitch for the final against Abilene Wylie or Argyle at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.
Veloz is a big reason the Yellow Jackets are in the ‘Sweet 16’ for the first time in school history, and a big reason they have an opportunity to continue this playoff journey that has yet to see an opponent come within a goal of senior-laden Stephenville.
“I give it all to God because He gave it all for me,” Veloz began. “And second, I give the credit to my teammates. I know they don’t always get the credit they deserve in the games, but they’re the ones who usually control the game and get me the ball and I’m just the one finishing the goal. They control the game and the tempo and are the reason we are winning.”
Those teammates would tell you Veloz is a big reason, too. He scored both goals including a late penalty kick to ensure a 2-0 win over Decatur in bi-district, scored twice more in a 3-1 win over Borger in the area round and posted a hat trick with three goals in a 4-2 regional quarterfinal defeat of Pampa just Tuesday evening.
“It’s just unbelievable the chances of scoring we have when he gets touches. It’s like one out of every four times he touches the ball we have a good chance to score. Not just an outside chance, but a good chance,” said Feist. “He isn’t a real vocal kid, he doesn’t want a lot of attention, he just wants to win. If they load up trying to limit him, I know he won’t have any problem with someone else finishing opportunities.”
Veloz and company knew early in the season they had an opportunity to be special. With a host of experienced lettermen back from a team that reached the regional quarterfinals before being eliminated by state champ San Elizario last year, the stage was all set.
But if there was one specific moment that proved to all the Jackets what they could achieve, it came on a crisp, cool January afternoon at the Stephenville Soccer Complex against longtime 5A powerhouse Waco University.
“I could feel it before the game, I just had a good feeling” said Veloz of meeting University in the championship match of the Knights of Columbus Challenge of Champions. Full time ended with Stephenville and University in a scoreless draw before the Jackets on in a penalty kick shootout. “But after that game, yeah, we knew we could be really good if we kept working hard and playing together.”
And they have, remaining unbeaten – with two draws – and winning their first ever district championship. Now, they’re on to their first regional tournament and ‘Sweet 16.’
“I think some people look at us and are like, ‘You guys are undefeated?’” Veloz said. “Yeah, we are.”
And they are trying to stay that way, with much more on the line than at any point in the history of the Stephenville boys soccer program.
“For me there are some nerves because I know my teammates count on me, but this is for all of us and I depend on them too,” said Veloz. “We just have to give everything to God and go out and play as hard as we can.
“I told the guys at the beginning of the season I wanted to hold up the district championship trophy and know what that feels like,” concluded the star, whether he likes being one or not. “I can’t even imagine what it would feel like to hold the regional trophy.”