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Boys soccer: Reservoir's Bonner stands above the crowd

Oakland RaidersPat MooreThe Washington PostA.J. HawkUniversity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

The stats say a lot.

Reservoir's Colin Bonner finished with 10 goals and 11 assists this fall to rank atop the county in total points, becoming the first Reservoir player to ever accomplish the feat.

But to truly understand the impact the Gators' senior made while helping his team to its first county title this year, it takes looking past the numbers. A 6-foot-4 senior with a motor that doesn't stop, Bonner's greatest strengths were those that don't show up in the box score.

He does the kinds of things that win games and drive opposing coaches crazy.

"Colin isn't the flashiest kid, but I tell you what, he can do everything. He's very smart, very physical and knows the game incredibly well," River Hill coach Matt Shagogue said. "He's always moving, setting things up … an incredibly tough match-up with that size and strength."

Coming off a junior year when he scored 12 goals and had seven assists, Bonner was the focal point for opponents. As Reservoir coach Paul Linkins said, "Some team's scouting reports would literally read: Bonner, Bonner, Bonner."

Yet as all eyes were on him, Bonner found ways to use it to his advantage.

"At first I was definitely a little shaken and wasn't sure quite what to do," he said. "But I quickly realized my leadership role and ways I could step up and bring the others with me. The more balanced I was, the better we were."

Becoming an all-around player was a steady progression over the years. A guy who came up to varsity for the playoffs his freshman year, Bonner was primarily a set-up man as a sophomore. His nine assists that year put him among the top three in the county.

Then as a junior he focused more on scoring, using his 12 goals to help Reservoir capture a state title.

This year, he put it all together and earned the title of Columbia Flier/Howard County Times Player of the Year.

"We knew he was special when we brought him up his freshman year for the playoffs and his first touch was a goal," Linkins said. "It's been fun watching him grow. The last two years he kind of stepped up where we needed him. This year it was his team."

The Gators were working in plenty of fresh faces this season after getting hit hard by graduation. That meant it was up to Bonner, along with the team's other seniors, to set the standard from the get-go so the team could hit the ground running.

"We might not have been the most skilled team, but we made sure we always came out with high energy and with a lot of pressure," Bonner said. "We weren't going to let ourselves get outworked and that started with the workouts before the season."

Reservoir got off to a strong start, winning four of its first five county games to sit in a tie for first place heading into its meeting with River Hill. It was then against the Hawks that Bonner and the Gators produced the defining moment of their season.

Down, 1-0, at halftime and with their county title hopes on life support, Bonner guided his team out of the locker room with a goal in the first 15 seconds after intermission to tie things up. Then, in the final four minutes, he set up teammate Gibril Sheriff for the deciding goal in a 2-1 victory.

"Down a goal like we were, we had to decide if we were going to put our heads down or fight back. It was a make-or-break moment," Bonner said.

Bonner's response in that moment of adversity is something Linkins won't soon forget.

"He knew what had to be done and he did it … he wasn't going to let us lose," Linkins said.

The come-from-behind victory catapulted Reservoir to the program's first county crown, finishing 9-2 in league play and one game ahead of River Hill. The following week the Gators added another first to the trophy case, beating Broadneck, 1-0, for the District V title.

Reservoir's season ended the following week, a 3-2 loss against Mt. Hebron in the region quarterfinals. Even in defeat, though, Bonner produced a goal and an assist.

In the weeks since, the awards have started rolling in. In addition to his Player of the Year honor, he's been named first team All-Met by the Baltimore Sun and The Washington Post.

But the greatest honor of all was his recent selection as a scholar all-America player by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America. Bonner, who carries a 3.81 unweighted grade-point average and will play for the University of North Carolina-Wilmington next fall, is one of only three boys soccer players from Maryland on the scholar all-America team.

"It's extra special because it's an all-around honor, academics and athletics," Linkins said. "For him, I know that means a lot."

Named to the all-county first team are:

Forwards

Nick Applegate, Marriotts Ridge. For a squad that lost three of its top four scorers, Applegate quietly assumed the responsibility of being one of the team's go-to forwards. With his strong presence around the ball, crossing ability and development as a finisher, he was perfect in a system that featured just one guy up top. "He had previously played mostly in the midfield, so he kind of had to learn on the fly how to play the position," Marriotts Ridge coach Kevin Flynn said. "But you could see it … as he got more comfortable, our offense started clicking."

Applegate was balanced as a scorer and distributor, evidenced by him finishing with seven goals and nine assists to rank among the top three in the county in total points with 23. He produced in the big games as well. He was responsible for the game-winner in the state semifinals against South Carroll and then scored the lone goal in Marriotts Ridge's 1-0 victory over Fallston that secured the Class 2A state championship.

Jake Turney, River Hill. The only sophomore to make the first team, Turney is a prime example of the benefits of hard work. Starting back in January, coming off a season where he had three goals and an assist, the Hawk forward began molding himself into a premier goal scorer. And by the time this fall rolled around, he was ready to take off. In the team's first county game against Mt. Hebron, he provided the lone goal in a 1-0 win. "That kind of gave him the momentum for the rest of the season," coach Matt Shagogue said. "There were some games that he absolutely dominated … he got the mentality where when he got the ball, he was going to goal."

Turney had eight goals and four assists, making him one of the county's top five scorers. He also registered at least a goal or an assist in 10 of the team's 16 games.

Midfield

Zack Johnson, Wilde Lake. A repeat first-team selection, Johnson found himself filling a number of different roles for a team that had an up-and-down campaign. He saw time at center back, defensive midfield, attacking midfield and as the team's point man at center forward. "We needed help at different points of the season at different places," coach Matt Pickett said. "He was always there to plug a hole for us and the kids really looked to Zach to settle us down when times got tough."

Johnson's athleticism helped him transition between the different areas of the field. But, after scoring six goals as a junior, there was an obvious comfort level offensively. He showcased that by finishing with six goals again this fall. A two-goal effort during a win over Howard in the playoffs was among the top moments of the season.

Brad Martinelli, Marriotts Ridge. The junior took his game to different level after the first half of the season. Already one of the county's most technically gifted players, Martinelli added a killer instinct to his arsenal and assumed his role as the heart and soul of a team that went on to win its third straight state title.

"For us to be successful, we kind of needed him to step up and be the guy for us. And that's exactly what he did," coach Kevin Flynn said. "He reads the game so well. It's almost like the game slows down for him because he's a step ahead mentally of everyone else."

Martinelli finished with 10 goals and 10 assists from his midfield position. Many of the goals were big ones. Five times this season Marriotts Ridge won 1-0 games and Martinelli was responsible for that lone score in four of them.

Josh Palin, Mt. Hebron. It was musical chairs for Palin in the early going as he spent time as a central midfielder and forward before settling in on the left side. Once he got there, though, he was dominant. "His strength was that he was flexible. He understood his role and accepted his responsibilities no matter what they were," coach Mike Linsenmeyer said. "During the second half of the year he completely controlled the outside for us, offensively and defensively."

A four-year varsity player, Palin was part of a Vikings' midfield unit that developed into one of the county's top groups on the way to reaching the 3A state finals. He finished as one of the team's top scorers with five goals and four assists and he got them at important times. The senior scored goals in playoff victories over Reservoir, J.M. Bennett and Stephen Decatur.

Andrey Pavlov, Centennial. On a team full of talented underclassmen, Pavlov was the senior leader who brought it all together from his position in the middle of the field. As a three-year varsity player, coach Jim Zehe tasked Pavlov with setting up transitions and taking all of the team's set pieces. "His decision-making on the ball was great," Zehe said. "He could size up any situation and decide what the best play was. Then he put that with the great versatility in the kind of balls he could play."

Pavlov's expertise was on display against Wilde Lake, where his corner kick set up the game-winning goal in double overtime. He also provided the lone goal for the Eagles in 1-0 wins over Atholton and Century during the middle of the season when the team started its run toward finishing third in the county.

Max Yarosh, Centennial. At 6-foot-4, Yarosh established himself as one of the county's best players in the air this fall. His size and strength, utilized on both sides of the ball, gave the Eagles quite the weapon.

"He basically takes the other team's best aerial player out of the game," coach Jim Zehe said. "He grew so much in terms of reading plays defensively and figuring out what was the best first move for him. He made everyone else around him feel comfortable."

While primarily a defensive midfielder, Yarosh was also a key member of the Eagles' second-wave attack. His ability to crash the box and make things happen helped him score five goals this season and register three assists. One of those five scores was a game-winner against Wilde Lake in double overtime early in the season. He also registered a goal and an assist in a victory over Oakland Mills.

Defense

Derek Chan, Atholton. Few players left more on the field this season than Chan. A tireless worker, with a nose for the ball, the four-time all-county defender wasn't afraid to put his body on the line. Unfortunately, that meant the Raiders senior ended up injured on several occasions and was forced to miss a handful of games.

When he was on the field, though, he was a star. His closing speed negated countless scoring opportunities and he had free reign to push the ball up field once he obtained control. By season's end he had registered four goals and two assists, including multi-point games against Howard (two goals) and Oakland Mills early in the season.

In Chan's four years with the team, the Raiders never finished below .500 in county play.

Sean Corcoran, Marriotts Ridge. The only returning starter in the back and one of the team's captains, Corcoran was asked to take on a lot of responsibility this season. Part of the task required breaking in the new group of defenders, but more importantly he was asked to be the voice in the back when starting goalie Pat Moore missed time with an injury early on.

With his steady play, heart and determination, he more than lived up to expectations. As consistent as they come, he played a huge role in the Mustangs allowing only two goals throughout the playoffs. And, according to his coach Kevin Flynn, Corcoran saved his biggest game for the biggest stage.

"In the state championship against Fallston he was everywhere. Every time they got something going, he shut it down," Flynn said. "It was the game we needed him the most and he was tremendous."

Jeff Jacoby, Glenelg. Jacoby was primarily a forward until the end of last year. Once he transitioned to sweeper in his final few games as a junior, his game took off. His speed, physical nature and vision all proved to be tremendous assets for a defense that quietly developed into one of the stingiest groups in the county.

"He was our anchor and the main reason we were so good at building from the back," coach Andy Shearer said. "He set the tone for us and dictated our transition up the field. His versatility was a real asset."

Jacoby helped the Gladiators register five shutouts. He also showcased his versatility by pushing forward on occasion to bolster the attack. In the team's 2-1 victory over Howard at the end of the regular season, he scored the game-winning goal in overtime.

Jimmy Rager, Reservoir. With the need for a lock-down guy in the back to take over for the graduated Ryan Konstanzer, the Gators had Rager make the switch from forward to defender this fall. It turned out to be the perfect fit. "When you take that forward speed, combined with his intelligence and great angles to the ball, he made a really smooth transition," coach Paul Linkins said. "He was the leader we needed him to be back there."

Linkins still got his senior involved in the offensive end of things, with Rager serving as the team's main long-throw specialist. That role helped him finish the season with five assists. Of the season highlights, Linkins says he was particularly impressed with Rager's play in a 1-0 victory over Broadneck in the District V championship game. It was one of only two times all season the Bruins were shut out.

Goalkeepers

Drew Staedeli, Mt. Hebron. Described by his coach Mike Linsenmeyer as the "best athlete on the team," Staedeli was the backbone of a Vikings defense that registered 10 shutouts this fall, including four straight to close out the regular season and three more in the playoffs. The three-year starter excelled as a physical and fearless leader.

"He was great at reading the ball and had no fear of contact … if a ball was coming into the box, he pounced on it," Linsenmeyer said. "His instincts are incredible."

There were plenty of highlights on the season, even a goal offensively in Mt. Hebron's win over Hammond. But nothing topped the save Staedeli made on a penalty kick by Colin Bonner late in the second half against Reservoir in the playoffs that preserved a 3-2 victory.

Nick Voyton, River Hill. Now a two-time all-state player, Voyton finishes his career in net for the Hawks with nearly two dozen shutouts. Slightly smaller than most at his position, he didn't let that keep him from achieving big things.

"He may not look like your prototypical goalkeeper, but he defies all the stereotypes," coach Matt Shagogue said. "He makes all the saves, runs the defense and overall controls the game. There were literally times where he won games for us this season."

One of the games where Voyton directly contributed to victory was the Hawks' 1-0 shutout of Marriotts Ridge. He finished with 10 saves in that contest to help snap the program's five-game losing streak against the Mustangs. Overall, Voyton finished with 98 saves and just 11 goals against on the year.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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