Plenty have scored more than Arensberg, but Northwest coach Bobby Bribiesca has never seen a player lead better than Arensberg did this season. While the Grizzlies (10-6-2) were up-and-down, Arensberg (11 goals, 10 assists) was the constant. Few had a higher work rate on both sides of the ball, and his technical ability out of the midfield was clear. “Landon was one of the best leaders we’ve ever had,” Bribiesca said. “I’ve never seen a player who had a knack for getting players to play for him like he did.”
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Charles was one of three seniors whose leadership during a mediocre start was invaluable to Carroll’s stunning turnaround which culminated in a third-place finish in Class 5A. Charles (three goals, five assists) led the revival from his defensive midfielder role, as Carroll produced consecutive shutouts over Liberal and Salina South to reach the state tournament. “We don’t get to state without him, plain and simple,” Carroll coach Mike Skaggs said. “He was the backbone of everything we did. He was the rock, offensively and defensively.”
Few had the ability to make a larger imprint on a game than Fiszel, who was the maestro behind an attack that led Andover (16-4-1) to its first state berth in over a decade. Whether it was breaking down a defense, carving it up with precision passes, or making the proper run, Fiszel (nine goals, 16 assists) won the middle of the field for the Trojans. “There were times where he just took over games for us,” Andover coach Chris Lemons said. “Tommy is one of those players who is methodical. Every move has its purpose. It was like he was playing the game one or two plays ahead of everyone else out there.”
Rarely did teams score against East during the flow of play because Gomez had the bulking size and pace to extinguish any threat. Gomez, who added four goals, anchored a back line that helped East (15-5-1) to its first state appearance. The Blue Aces allowed just 18 goals during the regular season, highlighted by a shutout victory over Garden City, 6A’s second-leading scoring team. “For me, he’s the prototypical college center back,” East coach Dylan Gruntzel said. “He was stronger than everybody he went against and could chase down the ball on anyone.”
It was a breakout season for Gomez-Nix, who always had the ability, but cut out bad habits and put forth his most complete season yet, a sterling campaign that included 20 goals and 10 assists. As a result, Valley Center (10-4-3) started winning. A season after winning just two games, the Hornets won their first league title. “You can sit there and tell kids to play fundamental soccer, but you have to have that somebody that can win those 1-on-1 battles,” Valley Center coach Steen Danielsen said. “Jordon was that guy for us. He really matured this season for us and improved as an overall player.”
The top-point scorer on the top team in Class 4-1A, Helmke’s senior year of netting 18 goals and 15 assists helped Rose Hill (20-1) to its first state championship. His finishing ability along with his expertise on dead balls and throw-ins made Helmke invaluable to the title run, demanding attention from every defense. “He’s got a very good shot and he’s tenacious on the ball,” Rose Hill coach Jerry Treat said. “He reads the game very well, and he does a really good job on most of our dead balls.”
A four-year varsity player, Marshall excelled in an expanded role when tasked to take over as Kapaun’s top striker. Playing on an inexperienced squad, Marshall responded by leading the City League in goals (20) and points (adding eight assists) to help Kapaun (9-8-1) to a second-place finish in the league. Even against schemes designed to stop him, Marshall produced because of his knack for scoring. “He has great technical skills and an even better finishing ability,” Kapaun coach Alan Shepherd said.
After graduating nearly its entire lineup from last season, East (15-5-1) actually came back stronger because of the emergence of Martinez-Salinas (12 goals, eight assists). His season highlight was scoring the game-winning penalty kick in an overtime win over Maize in a regional championship game. His creativity on the ball and ability to strike with either foot made Martinez-Salinas one of the toughest covers in the City League. “You didn’t know what to expect next from him,” East coach Dylan Gruntzel said. “Teams tried to mark him, but he was going to beat any defender one-on-one.”
Along with his twin, Logan, Santo was in the center of Class 4-1A’s most dominant defense, which produced 13 shutouts and allowed 11 goals in Rose Hill’s title-winning 20-1 season. Santo was the commander for Rose Hill in the back and proved productive when pushing forward to join the attack, generating seven goals and seven assists. “Him and his brother read the game well and they’re very disciplined on the ball,” Rose Hill coach Jerry Treat said. “He was an all-around player for us.”
Rose Hill’s first state championship doesn’t happen without Stitcher, who converted the go-ahead penalty shot, then made the game-winning save in a shootout victory over DeSoto in the semifinals. Stitcher held a 0.52 goals-against average with 13 shutouts, including one in the title win over Miege for Rose Hill (20-1). “When he was called on, he came up huge,” Rose Hill coach Jerry Treat said. “He was at his best when we needed him the most.”
The year before Weaver was a freshman, Goddard won one game. In his senior season, the Lions (13-5-1) were back in the Class 5A quarterfinals. Surrounded by clinical scorers on one of the most potent attacks in the area, Weaver distinguished himself as the team’s best two-way player. When dialed in, few could produce like Weaver (10 goals, 15 assists). “He was tenacious, constantly,” Goddard coach Ryan Rooney said. “He gets underneath people’s skin because of how hard he works. Being on the soccer field, that’s what made him tick being between those lines.”
Skaggs decided to start four freshmen and stick with them even after Carroll won just four of its first 11 games. That commitment exacted their best in rapid development, as what was surely a rebuilding season turned into Carroll’s finest in program history over the course of a month. The Eagles won nine of their final 10 games, including victories over Rose Hill, Liberal, Salina South, and Andover, to finish third in Class 5A. “I had the best seat in the house watching these guys develop,” Skaggs said. “This team was really, really special. It’s a credit to my three seniors and their leadership and them believing in those freshmen.”