High School Sports

Undefeated Northwest ready for run at state soccer title

The personalized chair that coach Bobby Bribiesca sits in during Northwest soccer games is most comfortable when he doesn't have to rise from it.

Bribiesca, the Grizzlies' coach the last 31 seasons, does more than his share of teaching in practice and at halftime of games. That's a major reason why Northwest is 18-0 going into its Class 6A quarterfinal game against North tonight and why the Grizzlies have set their sights on the state championship.

Bribiesca's voice doesn't carry well, and since he sits on the sideline usually far from the action, Northwest is best when it has a player who can take charge on the field.

"When I'm 50 yards away from the guys, they're not going to listen to me," Bribiesca said.

The Grizzlies have shown they will listen to senior forward Broc Cramer, though. Bribiesca didn't have an easy choice when choosing a captain this year, since Northwest has 13 seniors.

But Bribiesca chose Cramer mostly for his abilities to reach his peers. Cramer's personality resembles his coaches in that he is relatively low-key and often optimistic and positive, making it easier for Cramer to extend Bribiesca's message to his teammates.

"I think it's more just me naturally," Cramer said. "I do that for my club team, I do that in basketball. That's just kind of what I do naturally and kind of what I contribute to the team more than anything else. It's just a role that I've developed as a leader over the years I've played."

Cramer's assertion that his most valuable contribution to the Grizzlies is his leadership could be viewed as modesty. His 14 assists lead Northwest, and his 21 goals are second behind fellow senior forward Austin Clifton, who has 25.

Northwest's offense has proved unstoppable this season because Clifton and Cramer are hardly the Grizzlies' only options. Midfielder David Lucio has 21 goals and Logan Vestring gives them a fourth player with at least 15.

Those four have contributed most to an attack that has outscored opponents by 100 goals _ 106-6. Cramer displays more humility in saying the defense's performance is most impressive.

"Only giving up six, that's amazing," Cramer said. "We have an awesome defensive core, an awesome goalkeeper in (Jonathan Lane) and they've done an awesome job this year. They've made it easy on us by keeping goals out and keeping the pressure off of us."

Having so many quality scorers has only proven to benefit Northwest, as no player has complained about conceding to another and each has gotten plenty of opportunities to carry the load.

Sharing it benefits the Grizzlies most, though. Defenses don't have the depth to successfully defend every Northwest attacker, and if they did, none could match their speed and vision.

"We've been pretty successful all season," Lucio said. "Honestly, I just look for the open man. If I feel someone has a better opportunity to score, I'm probably just going to give it up to him."

A City League school hasn't won a 6A boys soccer title since Northwest in 1995. Bribiesca believes this one has the best chance of any team since then because it can match the depth of teams in northeast Kansas.

Bribiesca said he's feeling the pressure from acquaintances who expect the Grizzlies to win this season, but the players can't view this season as a total failure if it doesn't happen.

"That's been our main goal from the beginning," Cramer said. "The more real and real it gets every day, we want it that much more. You couldn't say it was a disappointment if we go 18-1 if we lose tomorrow. But without that one achievement, a state championship, I think we'll all have a bit of a disappointment.