2022 Northeast Florida Men’s Soccer Player of the Year

Now you see it.

Now you don’t.

Just when the opponents thought they knew where Antonio Mancinotti was going to attack them next, the Mandarin High School striker found a way to trick them again.

“Before, he was just pushing people away,” Mandarins football coach Jason Cooley said. “Now he’s changing his tune. He’s learned how to go from 60 to 30 to pull them in and then hit the little burst on them.”

Right, left or in-between, junior forward Mancinotti has been a scoring force all year for Mandarin, winning the Times-Union All-First Coast Player of the Year for Boys’ Football secondary.

Mancinotti finished the season with 30 goals and 15 assists, leading the Mustangs to a repeat Gateway Conference title.

For the 2021-22 campaign, as he put it, he was “in the zone”.

“In the game, every time I’m in the zone, everything changes,” he said. “My speed, my shots, my mentality.”

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Antonio Mancinotti is shown in portrait on Tuesday, June 28, 2022 at Mandarin High School in Jacksonville.  The junior forward is the Times-Union All-First Coast Men's Soccer Player of the Year for 2021-22.  He scored 30 goals and 15 assists while leading Mandarin to the Class 7A state semi-finals. [Corey Perrine/Florida Times-Union]

Catch the soccer bug

Mancinotti’s first experience in sports came at the age of 9, and very soon he caught the soccer bug.

“Since then I want to play football every day, the rest of my life,” he said.

When he arrived at the Mandarin, he found himself in a team made up of several experienced Mustangs, with veteran midfielders Adel Iriskic and Amar Mesic among the leaders. But he quickly integrated into the formation.

In nearly two decades around the Mandarin program, Cooley has seen plenty of explosive talent, from Jean Vega to Kacper Grzeszczak to Rijad Kobiljar. He soon realized that Mancinotti was going to join the roster.

“He’s always had a lot of speed, he’s very quick and he’s got a lot of good ideas,” Cooley said. “But he really wanted to work on set…he can [now] carve it from the left foot or the right foot and bend it in the upper 90s on each side.”

Mancinotti and the Mustangs advanced to the Florida High School Athletic Association Class 7A semifinals, where a single Tampa Plant goal kept them from advancing to the second state final in team history. .

He also achieved great success when it mattered most, taking the last game-winning streak to defeat Stanton for a second straight Gateway Conference title and earning a team captaincy role while still in his freshman year. .

“He’s a special person and a big part of our team’s success, and not just from a football perspective, but from a leadership perspective,” Cooley said.

Mandarin striker Antonio Mancinotti (11) celebrates a goal with team mate Pedro Alarcon during a game against Atlantic Coast.

explosive instinct

Instinct. It’s at the heart of Mancinotti’s game.

When it’s really on, he says, there’s no time to even stop to think.

“I just knew what I wanted to do,” he said. “Take that turn, shoot with precision, and sometimes it fits and sometimes it doesn’t.”

The big question: what part of the football pitch will Mancinotti present next?

Sometimes he lines up on the right wing. Other times down the left or directly in the middle of Mandarin’s three-pronged attack – anything to create an added complication for opponents who often deploy multiple defenders in an attempt to contain him.

“I thought over the years that if I kept going back and forth they would try to follow me and give my teammates space,” he said. “It helped me a lot.”

Mancinotti said he likes to model his game on the direct and quick style of Son Heung-min, the Korean striker for London club Tottenham Hotspur who scored 23 goals last year to tie for the Premier League goalscoring title. English League.

Mancinotti has also become a formidable scoring threat thanks to the confidence that comes with experience and confidence, and the willingness to take on defenders one-on-one. When Mancinotti started at the Mandarin, Cooley said, he sometimes tended to defer to his older teammates, but now that he is the leader of the attack he has shown he is ready to take on. charge again and again.

“We expected big things,” Cooley said, “and he delivered.”

Watch the pro game

Mancinotti isn’t shy about discussing his long-term goals.

One day, he says, he hopes to play professional football.

In his eighth year, he recalls, a visiting coach asked the players at his club what their ultimate goals in the game were. For most, that goal was to be able to play college football. Almost all hands went up.

Not Mancinotti. His reasoning: Why stop there?

“I said, ‘Because I want to play professional,'” he said. “There were a few players who made fun of me, so that’s what made me want to say, ‘You know what? I’m going to stick with it.’ I’m going to keep playing and I want to play pro. That’s the motivation.”

Relatively few Northeast Florida-based players have made the leap to pro, but that’s far from unprecedented. The list includes players like former Mandarin winger Kobiljar, who now plays for Bosnian side FK Sarajevo; Nease graduate Nathan Sturgis, who lined up for a decade in Major League Soccer and represented the United States at under-23 level; and former Bishop Kenny striker Tony Taylor, who spent a decade in professional football, lined up for Panama in the World Cup qualifiers and is now coaching football mentor Mancinotti for the young striker.

How far can he go? Mancinotti is eager to find out.

“Football was just for fun for me [at first]”, he said. “Now it’s always fun for me, but it’s kind of like my job to try to reach the top.

Antonio Mancinotti, men’s football

Young people, Mandarin

Age: 17 years old

Summary: Scored 30 goals and 15 assists to lead Mandarin to the Class 7A State Semi-Finals. … Won a second straight Gateway Conference tournament, scoring the game-winning goal against Stanton. … Led Duval County Public Schools in scoring.

Clayton Freeman covers high school sports and more for the Florida Times-Union. Follow him on Twitter at @CFreemanJAX.

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