Local HS alumni have the ‘Force’

KNOXVILLE --- Austin Bihlmeyer and Matt Zaczyk once were two of the top high school soccer players in Knox County.

Both graduated in 2017 and both have played collegiately at the NCAA Division I level.

But Bihlmeyer, a Farragut High School graduate, and Zaczyk, who starred at Christian Academy of Knoxville, got the chance to come home and play semi-pro soccer for Knoxville’s Emerald Force Soccer Club.

Bihlmeyer, now at East Tennessee State, and Zaczyk, now at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, made their final regular-season home appearance with Emerald Saturday night, June 30, at Sansom Family Sports Complex’s H.T. Hackney Field, downtown Knoxville. A 1-0 loss competed the club’s play in Southeast Conference of the National Premier Soccer League.

Both players had stellar high school careers. Bihlmeyer was a four-year letterman and starter for the Ads (2014-2017). He was an All-South Region performer as a senior in 2017 when he scored 20 goals and dished out 32 assists.

Zaczyk, a midfielder with all-region and all-district credentials, edged Bihlmeyer for Prep Xtra Player of the Year honors in 2017.

“I barely beat (Bihlmeyer) out for Player of the Year and I’m still not sure how that happened,” Zaczyk said. “He’s a great player and he’s been fun to play with. This has been fun this summer and it’s a good way to stay competitive and keep those juices flowing.”

Bihlmeyer wasted little time making an impact when he moved to Johnson City to play for the Buccaneers. His landed a spot on the Southern Conference’s 2017 All-Freshman Team.

“It’s always good to get the chance to play,” Bihlmeyer, a forward, said. “This has been fun and this is a great group of guys.”

“It’s good to play in the summer because it’s always hard to train when you’re training on your own.”

“This is great. It’s always fun to get the chance to come home and play,” Zaczyk said. “It’s nice because my mom and dad were here.”

Bihlmeyer agreed.

“This is great because it’s right down the street from my house,” he said.