Black Immigrant Daily News
Two Pinelands youth recently conquered the football circuit in California.
Devonte Richards and Tajio James helped Feather River College reclaim the Golden Valley Conference Championship with outstanding performances, which saw them earn team and individual recognition.
Richards was voted the conference’s Offensive Player of the Year after wracking up 22 goals and eight assists, while James recorded 28 goals and 14 assists, and both made the First Team All-Conference roster for the second consecutive season.
“This season I came back with a different mentality…”
The childhood best friends departed the shores of Barbados last summer in pursuit of academic and athletic excellence and they have done just that in Quincy, California.
In their freshman year, they made valuable contributions to the team’s conference title, with Richards scoring eight times and providing seven assists, and James had 11 goals and nine assists.
Richards said he was pleased with his performances in his first year of collegiate football, but he believes his late arrival to preseason delayed his adjustment to the new environment.
A mistake he did not make going into the sophomore year.
“The main reason for my improvement is due to preseason training.
Last year we weren’t here in time for preseason training, but this year we were here for it, so my body was feeling good and then I had a bit of a position change.
Last year I was playing a bit deeper, I use to play as a number eight, and sometimes a number 10, but this year I was playing as a number nine or 10, so it made me a bit more offensive”, said Richards.
James also credited preseason for his improvement, but highlighted a change of mentality for his incredible statistics this season.
“This season I came back with a different mentality and pledged that everything had to go in this year, so I finished with 28 goals and 14 assists”.
James’ psychological shift also saw him awarded the captaincy, where he inspired his team to the title via example and motivated his teammates to individual and team conference awards such as the Goalkeeper of the Year, won by Jack Cook and Defender of the year Luke Quinn.
Humble in their recognition, the national senior players said they were pleased with their awards, especially since it was one of many objectives to achieve in their sophomore year.
It feels great to win the award. It was actually one of the things I wanted to achieve this year, along with a few other things.
Looking ahead, I want to go to a good soccer and academic university, so I can pursue my dream of becoming a professional footballer.
I just want to be in the right environment”, said James.
Richards said he is pleased with his recognition but is eager to display similar performances for the senior national team.
“Last year I wanted to win some kind of individual award and this year I came into preseason with that goal in mind.
I said I had to be dominant and work harder in order to reach my goal and I had a good season.
Going forward and looking towards the future, I’m hoping to be more dominant with the national team.
I feel like I’ve performed everywhere I’ve played, but I never got the chance to show my true talent with the national team.
I’m also trying to go onto a university to further my academic and soccer opportunities.”
The Pine duo extended gratitude to their teammates, coaches and everyone in Barbados who has been supportive and played a part in their development.