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DALTON, Ga. — Dalton High School junior Omar Hernandez was named the 2017-18 Gatorade Georgia Boys' Soccer Player of the Year on Wednesday.

The forward led the Catamounts to a 16-3-1 record and into the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAAA playoffs with 28 goals and 20 assists. He recorded eight multi-goal games, including five hat tricks, and now has 62 goals and 47 assists in his prep career.

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Dalton soccer player Omar Hernandez

Hernandez, who has verbally committed to play at Wake Forest University, is now a finalist for the Gatorade National Boys' Soccer Player of the Year award, which will be announced this month.

"It's a big deal," Dalton coach Matt Cheaves said. "He's an extremely talented soccer player with a lot of speed and great anticipation. He's just a really all-around great soccer player and a real humble kid and great teammate."

Past winners on the state level include nationally prominent players such as Alexi Lalas, Steve Cherundolo, Abby Wambach, Heather O'Reilly, Matt Mesler and Jack Harrison.

Hernandez, according to the program's press release, will be able to select a national or local youth sports organization to receive a grant as part of the Gatorade Play It Forward program. Every state winner receives a $1,000 grant to donate and will have the opportunity to enter for an additional $10,000 spotlight grant by writing a brief essay explaining why their selected organization deserves additional support.

Gatorade will award 12 spotlight awards — one for each sport — at different times throughout the year.

The award, according to Gatorade officials, not only recognizes outstanding athletic excellence, it also rewards high standards of academic achievement and exemplary character demonstrated on and off the field. The program annually recognizes one winner in each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia in a variety of sanctioned sports. The selection process is administered by the Gatorade Player of the Year Selection Committee.

Contact Lindsey Young at lyoung@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6296. Follow him on Twitter @youngsports22.

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