ELEVEN GAMES intolast season the Clovis West (Fresno) boys' soccer team was slogging throughlong stretches of uninspired play and had just lost its second match when coachNeil Deans called the players together--not for a pep talk but to deliver astern ultimatum. "I said, Put up or shut up," he recalls. "You cantalk it or you can walk it."
That may not seemlike much of a speech, but the challenge, coming from the normally upbeat andencouraging Deans, ignited the team, which won its final 22 games and marchedto a No. 1 national ranking. "It was a different feeling after thatmeeting," says Deans. "They just turned it up."
The championshipalso turned up expectations. "After our awards dinner [last April], one ofthe parents came up and said, 'We've got to do it again,'" says Deans."I was like, Oh, crap."
Clovis West, now11-3-4, could indeed rise again to No. 1, mainly because it returned 12players, including high-scoring forwards Ben Milam (headed to Cal) and TylerReinhart (below), as well as goalie Alex Lloyd, who had 21 shutouts last yearand has 10 this year, as well as a .33 goals-against average. Lloyd, a buddingmathematician and a 4.6 student, had the highest score in the CaliforniaMathematics League as a sophomore. He's hoping to attend an Ivy League school,and he applies his academic skills--along with some serious swagger--on thepitch. "Playing the angles as a math guy helps me," he says."[Also] I always raise my game when there's pressure. I'm very confident inmyself, to say the least."
January 8, 2007
That goes for thewhole team. "We know we have targets on our backs," says Milam."Teams get more dirty and physical against us ... but the confidence oflast season has really carried over."
Boys' soccer is a winter sport in seven states. Inaddition to Clovis West here are other top teams to watch out for.
Klein (Texas) Southern Methodist recruit Chad Bauman(24 goals, 14 assists) earned NSCAA All-America honors last year and, alongwith senior goalie Tyler Deric (North Carolina), hopes to take the Bearkats totheir second Class 5A title in three years.
Countryside (Clearwater, Fla.) The Cougars are 19-0-1and, sparked by the play of senior goalkeeper Jeff Attinella, have outscoredopponents 67--7.
Canoga Park (Los Angeles) Led by senior midfielderWilliam Velasquez's first-half strike, the Hunters (9-0-1) gained the nation'sattention last Saturday with a 3--0 win over highly touted Loyola (L.A.) in theWest Coast Classic at Cal State--Fullerton.
Coppell (Texas) Ranked No. 2 in the Texas coaches'poll behind Klein, the Cowboys look to All-America midfielder Blake Wilson tohelp them get one game better than last year, when a Class 5A playoff run endedwith a 2--1 OT loss to Gladys Porter (Brownsville, Texas) in the finals.--K.A.
In a battle of nationally ranked California powers,Artesia (Lakewood) nipped Mater Dei (Santa Ana) 58--57 to win the OrangeHoliday Classic. Renardo Sidney, a 6'10" sophomore, had 16 points and 17rebounds for Artesia (13--0), while Mater Dei's 6'8" Taylor King (left,he's headed to Duke) reached an Orange County career record of 2,642 points,breaking a 32-year-old mark set by Mark Wulfemeyer of Troy (Fullerton).
Shaler Area (Pittsburgh) senior Nick Nelson (right,behind foe) was named Most Outstanding Wrestler at the Powerade ChristmasTournament in Canonsburg, Pa. Nelson, the No. 2 seed, won five matches on hisway to the 145-pound championship.
ANOTHER MAGIC JOHNSON
Senior guard Brittany Johnson became the leadinggirls' basketball scorer in Illinois while helping Olney East Richland win theClass A State Farm Holiday Classic in Bloomington. The Ohio State signee scored32 points in the final as the Tigers (18--0) ended St. Joseph--Ogden's 15-gamewinning streak 62--48. She now has 3,472 points, eclipsing the 3,403 scored byAngie Sapp-Hartman of Williamsville between 1989 and '93.
A FLYER FLIES ON
Don Donoher, 74, who reached the NCAA Sweet 16 asDayton's coach five times between 1964 and '89, can't quit the game. Donoher(above) is an assistant boys' basketball coach at Bishop Fenwick (Franklin,Ohio), where his grandson, Kevin, plays guard. "At this stage, I'm tryingto stay under the radar," says coach Donoher. "Obviously I haven'tsucceeded."
For more high school news, team rankings from RISE andDave Krider's Primetime Performer of the Week, go to SI.com/highschool.