Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Westover junior Danny Brown was beyond modest when he claimed he didn't get that much better between last year and this year.

The Herald, as well as Brown's father, Greg -- who also happens to be Danny's coach, and toughest critic -- definitely disagree.

And that's why, for the second year in a row, the prolific Westover scoring machine is Player of the Year for boys soccer.

And Greg Brown, for one, is the first to admit this was the year that his son truly earned it.

"Not that Danny shouldn't have won it a year ago because I think he is one of the best players around, but this season he was just such a more well-rounded player," said the coach, whose son led the Patriots to the GHSA Class AAA Sweet with a dominating 26 goals and 11 assists. "The crazy thing? He could've scored a lot more goals than he did but he was so concerned about helping out on defense."

That was never more evident than during the Patriots' most crucial point in their season.

The setting: GHSA Class AAA opening round of state against No. 2 seed Mary Persons on the road.

The stakes: Westover trying to advance to the second round for the first time in five years.

The scenario: The Patriots fall behind, 2-0, with Danny on defense, rather than up front as a scoring threat.

"I didn't want to leave the defense. The team needed me back there," said Danny, who got pulled aside by his father at halftime and told he was being moved up in the second half to help generate some offense.

Added Greg: "I went to him and said, 'We need you up there, buddy. I understand you don't want any more goals to be scored on us, but if we don't score any goals ourselves, we can't win."

So Danny came out after halftime and within the first four minutes, Westover was on the board and only trailing, 2-1, thanks to Brown's foot.

"I'd seen some flaws watching their offense in the first half from back on defense," Danny began, "and once I got that first goal, I guess I just felt like couldn't be stopped."

Brown scored again moments later to tie the game at 2-2, then crossed a perfect ball to teammate Bridger Ferrell a few minutes after that to record an assist and put the Pats ahead, 3-2. They went on to win, 4-2, although Westover was knocked out the following week.

"It was a great season and my goal going in was just to help us win one playoff game because I knew we were good, and it had been five years since (the program) had made it that far," said Danny, who scored four times in a game twice during the regular season and was named First-Team All-Region -- at defender, no less. "Next year my goals will be higher. I want the second round or further."

Greg said he couldn't be prouder of his son and all he's accomplished, but added he constantly finds himself apologizing to Danny for being way harder on him than anyone else.

"It's tough to separate yourself in those two roles -- dad and coach," Greg said. "But when Danny stepped up in a leadership role this year, I knew it was finally time to lay off and let him do his thing. And he did it well, I have to admit."

Danny tries just as hard to impress his father, not only to make him proud, but to prove to his teammates that he gets his touches based on merit and skill -- not favoritism.

"It creates more pressure having him on the sideline watching my every move," Danny said. "But I like it. It makes me want to prove myself every time I'm out there, so that's good."

While Brown has another year left to prove what he can do, he makes no secret of the fact that he plans on playing at the next level one day.

"That's my dream right now. I want to go to Georgia Southern or maybe Georgia State (and play college soccer)," said Danny, who was second in the region in goals scored this year. "But right now I'm just thinking about getting better for next year."

And maybe by then, he'll finally admit that he has.