Ravenwood’s Nick Dang and Grace Christian Academy’s Malachi and Levi Jones all play on the same club soccer team.
They will remain together after committing to Lipscomb’s soccer team.
The Jones brothers and Dang play on the Nashville United Soccer Academy club team.
Dang, a 6-foot-1, 180-pound center defensive midfielder, has five goals and two assists this season.
“He’s one of the top three best players I’ve ever coached and I’ve coached a lot of really good players,” Ravenwood coach Adam Harris said. “He has all of the things that you need to play Division I soccer. You know: he’s big, physical, smart, hard worker.”
On top of that, the senior can play soccer with both feet, he can play with his back to goal, he can go forward, he can defend.
“He can do it all,” Harris said. “It’s very rare that you have a player that you can put in all 11 positions on the soccer field and I’m including goalie in that. He can play anywhere on the soccer field and he understands every role, every responsibility.”
Dang showed his explosiveness when he scored five goals in a 7-3 overtime win over Independence in the 2019 District 12-AAA semifinals.
“You can just tell that he just says, ‘I got this,’ and you don’t have to tell him anything,” Harris said. “You actually just want to get out of his way and he just goes. In that game, absolutely, he was not going to let the team lose.”
Dang said he scored on three free kicks and two penalty kicks.
“The one he hit from 40 yards away was the crown jewel of all of them,” Harris said. “That’s one of the best shots I’ve ever seen. Jax Martin is a very good goalie and he had no chance.”
Dang’s perfectly placed shot on a free kick found the top right corner of the net.
“His main shot is actually a knuckleball and when he hits it, it looks like a vortex coming at you,” Harris said. “It just shakes, it goes up, down, left, right. It has no spin on it at 60 miles per hour and you just can’t track it.”
Dang describes the five-goal game as “a surreal moment.”
“I remember it wasn’t too long before that we played Independence and they whooped us 4-0,” Dang said. “It was a weird game.”
Ravenwood is 2-2-3 overall, including a 0-1-1 district record.
Dang broke his nose while winning a header challenge in a 2-2 tie against Brentwood two weeks ago.
He underwent surgery Friday and hopes to return as early as Tuesday’s game against Franklin.
“He’s a gigantic part of our team,” Harris said.
Dang played goalkeeper until sixth grade before switching to center midfielder.
His biggest win came during his sophomore year when the Raptors upset Overton 2-1 in the region semifinals.
It was the Bobcats’ only loss in 18 games and it avenged a 5-2 defeat to Overton during the regular season.
Travis Born’s goal in the second golden-goal period gave Ravenwood the win.
Ravenwood finished 8-8-3 that year, but made it all the way to the sectional, where it fell to Station Camp, the eventual state runner-up.
Dang played point guard in basketball, averaging 10.3 points and 3.5 assists for the Raptors (18-10), who made it to the Region 6-AAA semifinals this season.
“Wouldn’t have been same team without him,” Ravenwood basketball coach Patrick Whitlock said of Dang, a first-team District 11-AAA player.
Malachi, a winger, central midfielder and forward, and Levi, a defensive central midfielder, are both juniors. Malachi has 14 goals and seven assists this season.
“They’re some of the most talented soccer players that we’ve ever seen, but what is even more impressive is how well they lead -- both of them in different ways,” GCA coach David DeFatta said. “Malachi is a very vocal leader and he’s a very spiritual leader where Levi is quieter and more reserved. He leads by example.”
Malachi’s quickness is one of his best traits on the field.
“He’s as fast with the ball as he is without it,” DeFatta said. “His touch on the ball is fantastic and he’s really got a nose for the goal.”
Levi (two goals, eight assists) makes it tough on opposing offenses.
“That boy can defend,” DeFatta said. “There aren’t many players that get by him. He really loves the defensive part of the game, but he’s also got great vision.”
There are some good soccer genes in the Jones family. Their older brother, Michael, is one of the top scorers in state history with 147 goals and 49 assists at GCA from 2014-17.
He’s now a junior midfielder at Trevecca. All three were born in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in West Africa before moving to Thompson’s Station.
“Nobody coaches Levi and Malachi better than Michael,” DeFatta said. “He watches film with them religiously and talks to them about what they did well and didn’t do well. Just a great older brother.”
Malachi calls Michael “literally a second father.”
GCA (8-1, 2-0) takes a four-game winning streak into Friday’s game at Christ Presbyterian Academy, the 2019 Division II-A runner-up.
“The main thing that has made the difference is the culture that we have here at Grace Christian Academy,” Malachi said. “Just the tight-knit family that we have formed here on the soccer team. Everyone has bought in to what we have here.”
Last season was shortened to two games by the coronavirus pandemic after the Lions had won the Class A title in 2019.
“Missing our sophomore season last year was definitely a bummer and I thought we had a great opportunity to do great things,” Malachi said. “Losing that season, yea, it hurt, but I think it’s been a motivation knowing that not every game is guaranteed. A season can be taken away at any moment.”
Levi said Lipscomb is “a perfect fit” because it’s close to home and has a Christian environment.
Second-seeded Lipscomb (6-4-2) visits No. 1 Jacksonville (5-4-1) in the Atlantic Sun Conference semifinals Thursday night.
Defender Hunter Bossman, a former Independence player, is a redshirt freshman for the Bisons.
Lipscomb’s roster features 10 international players, including four from Germany and three from England.