Player Of The Year: Titus Nickson

A relative man among boys each of the last two seasons, and this year he helped to make even more school history.

San Bernardino Indian Springs senior Titus Nickson is InlandFieldhouse.com’s 2016 Boys Soccer Player Of The Year.

Nickson, the Inland Area’s most impressive defender over his last 50 games, led the Coyotes to their first San Andreas League title and first CIF-Southern Section playoff victory this season.

Titus Nickson was MVP of the 2014 San Gorgonio Shootout.

Indian Springs senior Titus Nickson was MVP of the 2014 San Gorgonio Shootout.

“I never expect any of this,” Nickson said. “It was a really good season. It was important to take that league championship for the school, as the first soccer (league title) team for the school.”

The 6-foot-2 Nigerian-born center back first made an impression during the 2014 San Gorgonio Shootout, winning tournament MVP after scoring goals in the quarterfinal and semifinal rounds en route to Indian Springs’ first trophy as a soccer program.

His calm yet massive presence on the ball was the difference for Indian Springs’ playoff push this season.

“He was a major force in the back, but in the last few games he stepped it up to a whole new level of intensity and attacking anybody who came into his area to the point where it was almost impossible to go around him,” Indian Springs head coach John Arient said.

Nickson said his favorite memory from this senior season was coming from 2-0 down to draw, 2-2, at Rialto in a SAL game on Feb. 4. The result kept the Coyotes’ title hopes alive.

“It was a bad game. We were at the point to where if we lose this game we not going to achieve what we’ve put forth for ourselves to achieve,” Nickson said. “We started playing and they were beating is, 2-0, about 15 minutes into the second half and at the end of the game we came back and won, and at the last minute Jose Hernandez go the final goal for us which was a crazy one for us. Happy moment for all us as a team, bring it back together and having a tie on the game.”

The Coyotes (14-6-5 overall, 6-1-3 league) wrapped up their first SAL title a week later, claiming a spot in the CIF-SS Division 5 playoff draw.

“We started strong this season but at some point we went down but we put a goal that we wanted to achieve,” Nickson said. “We all pushed it, and our coaches they push it to us like, ‘We need to bring up the attitude like it was from the beginning of the season’

“Because the same thing happened to us last year. We started strong then at the end of the season we game,” Nickson said. “But this season at the middle we gave up — we didn’t really give up — but we went down and we had to bring it up.”

The team took points from of their final nine league games, then defeated Pomona, 2-0, in their first ever home playoff game.

Nominated by Arient for the Inland Empire High School All-Star Game, Nickson was the only field player to stay on for all 80 minutes. His San Bernardino County team lost, 3-1, to Riverside County on Friday, March 18, 2016.

“It’s great that the high school players are together, who play against each other and know each other; maybe some play club, and bringing us all together to make new friends,” Nickson said. “The exposure could mean a lot for me.”

College is weighing on his mind. Nickson graduate with his class in June, then decide on his next step, which he said will definitely include soccer.

“I’m still open (to playing), and hoping colleges are still interested,” Nickson said. “I’m still talking to coaches so hopefully something good comes out of it. I know a couple of colleges that really want me, but I’m still talking, trying to get an option.”

“Because he only came to the Unites States a year and a half ago recruiting is kind of new (but) his ceiling to where is potential could be is off the charts,” added Arient.

A natural defender versatile enough to also play on the wing, Nickson will make an immediate impact at the next level, no matter where that is.

Why?

“I watch the game. I read the game. I try to put people in position to make the game easier for the whole team,” Nickson said.

A man among boys? Maybe not for long. But clearly mature beyond his years.

PHOTO by INLAND EMPIRE MEDIA GROUP

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