Orellana signing day with Soccer coach José Leal

Orellana and Redhead both verbally committed to their universities during the last week of May, adding something more to celebrate at the end of their final school year.

Though school was not in session, Alief Taylor High School bustled with students donning graduation caps and gowns June 1, in preparation for the grand ceremony three days away.

In the auditorium, two seniors put the finishing touches on their college plans.

Chris Orellana and Malachi Redhead signed to continue their soccer careers in front of coaches, teammates, family and friends. Orellana is bound for Millikin University in Illinois, while Redhead will play for Iowa Wesleyan University. Both are NCAA Division III institutions, with Iowa Wesleyan transitioning to NAIA this summer.

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Both left an impression with the Lions this past season. Orellana served as team captain in his second varsity season, earning first-team all-district honors at midfielder in 23-6A. Among his best attributes as a senior leader was composure on penalty kicks.

“He took four and scored all of them,” Taylor coach Jose Leal said. “The season before he missed the penalty kick. He thought he couldn’t make it, so I talked to him and I said, ‘We’re always going to have mistakes.’ … I think that talk helped his self-confidence. When you take a PK, it’s a very mental process.”

Soccer Coach Jose Leal said "Soccer is great for kids, schollarships changes lives"

Orellana and Redhead both verbally committed to their universities during the last week of May, adding something more to celebrate at the end of their final school year.

“It’s something I’ve been looking forward to for a while,” Orellana said. “It’s making me feel very happy and excited because it’s been a journey. It’s been a little bit of a stress because I’ve been looking for a college. It’s been hard, but through my parents and my amazing girlfriend, all my friends, they’ve pushed me and always loved and supported me through everything. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Orellana plans to study athletic management at Millikin, looking to continue in a sport he has enjoyed since age 6. On the field, the Big Blue finished 3-4 during a shortened 2020 season but had a winning record as recently as 2018.

They have my major,” Orellana said. “I saw the campus and it’s very beautiful and nice. Of course it’s a bit of a distance. But if I don’t make it pro or make it big, at least I can do something that interests me. Maybe I’ll become a coach or teach little kids and others what I’ve learned on my path.”

Redhead exhibited his versatility, playing forward and defender. He also showed his scoring touch, notably during a district match against Dawson as the Lions rallied for a 3-2 victory.

“We were trailing 0-2 in one of the games that we visited,” Leal said. “I talked to them at halftime and said, ‘We can come back, it’s up to you … if you want to start playing we’ll win.’ They believed it. Carlos (Izaguirre) scored the first goal, Malachi scored the second goal and Carlos again the third goal. Those are the experiences you take with you. They teach you character lessons.”

Redhead said the Lions built chemistry throughout an enjoyable season and noted their potential for success in the near future, thanking the team during a brief address during signing day.

“I’m very grateful for my teammates these four years,” Redhead said. “It’s been a journey. There’ve been a lot of obstacles but I made it through. I’d like to thank all my coaches for all the hard work they put in.”

Redhead had interest from different schools but found a good fit at Iowa Wesleyan, where he plans to study marketing. The Tigers finished 6-2-2 this spring and won the St. Louis Intercollegiate Athletic Conference in 2019.

“I thought it was going to be in Houston, but I was excited to see a whole different area,” Redhead said.

Redhead and Orellana helped lead the Lions within a victory of the playoffs in a competitive district. Strake Jesuit, Elsik, Shadow Creek and Pearland made the playoffs, with Elsik reaching the regional semifinals. Taylor earned at least a draw against three of the four, adding a victory against the Oilers.

“This season we were just two points away from playoffs,” Leal said. “If we would’ve won one of the games we tied or lost we would’ve made playoffs. It was so close. It was not until the last minute we knew who was going to make it and who was not. I remember the last day coaches were calling me, I was calling coaches, because we won 4-1 and with a combination of results we could’ve made playoffs. We didn’t, but that’s fine. This is more than playoffs right here.”


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Soccer Coach Jose Leal said "Soccer is great for kids, schollarships changes lives"