Any good player has a hand in their team’s success.
No player in Arundel soccer history manipulated the future more than Spencer Hanks.
Not a game went by this season that included a Wildcats goal that Hanks, win or (occasionally) lose, didn’t enforce his will into the back of the net. The senior forward’s industrial production carried Arundel through a thorny Class 4A East Region to the state semifinal and earned the 2019 Capital Gazette Communications Boys Soccer Player of the Year two notes in the school’s record book.
No Wildcat in boys soccer history had piled up as many goals (30) in a single season, breaking by one goal a mark that stretches back to 1986. That pile cemented Hanks’ place at the top with the most career goals at Arundel (73).
Setting new measures of greatness with his own name wasn’t Hanks’ goal entering Arundel. His primary concern as a nerve-raddled freshman was just to make varsity. Entering this season, with one Player of the Year nod and 20-plus goal season in his wake, Hanks still wasn’t aiming for personal glory this fall; he didn’t even know those records were on the line.
All he knew was that other squads knew Arundel was difficult and that he would be one of the few people that could stop them.
“We knew coming into this season that is was our year. We had a target on our back the whole year. Everybody in the county knew we were supposed to be the best team," he said. "So I knew I needed to step up as a leader and try to make my team as successful as it can be. I’m glad to help the team with my goals.”
Just as fellow county teams were cognizant of what they were facing in the Wildcats, opposing players knew what they were dealing with in Hanks, and planned accordingly. Hanks drew marks like a great planet draws moons.
With as many as five Hanks goals in a game, those defenders’ success rate wasn’t very high. Hanks often dropped back in the midfield to shake his pursuers, Arundel coach Mike McCarron said, and did, well.
“Coach always talked to me about not getting in my own head, staying positive because they’re not going to leave me alone for one second. When I’m on the sideline talking to Coach, they follow me,” Hanks said. “I just need to stay active, can’t stop moving, tire them out. A split second is all it takes to get away from them and trust my teammates around me to get me a great pass.”
Two, three years ago, Hanks was an underclassmen with years of high school experience ahead of him, but so were his teammates. The Wildcats fielded a young roster up until this year; the players grew together. They knew how to sync up with Hanks on a crowded field.
“We have a very well-rounded team that were confident in Spencer’s ability but understood that he was simply doing his job and that is to convert goals when given the opportunity. It was solid team play that got him involved at that point," McCarron said. "When you’re in a forward role, when we get the ball down into attacking third, more often than not, the ball’s going to find him. His movement off ball also demands the ball. The players will run the play that makes sense, and often that’s to him.”
When it comes to where on the field Hanks proved most dangerous, it’s a laundry list: though most of his goals came off, of course, his feet, Hanks scored from his head, from the left, from the right, from inside the 18 and out.
“I like to make runs off the backline. I’m not the biggest guy, not the quickest guy. I’m not going to be a physical presence in the box,” Hanks said. “I like to use my ability, smartness I guess, run off the backline, get passes from my teammates. One on one with the keeper, I trust myself to finish those.”
Hank’s eyes, McCarron said, were as dangerous as his feet, and that just improved by his senior season. Coming into this fall, the coach noticed Hanks could now release his shot faster, quicken his eye to goal.
Playing for a nationally-ranked club team like Baltimore Celtic outside of school and facing the country’s top talent prepared Hanks as well as anything else he could have done outside of the fall season. However, it wasn’t just experience that empowered his impressive senior season.
“I work hard every summer to get in shape for the high school season, but coming into senior year, it was a confidence thing," Hanks said, "being the oldest in the group, standing out as a leader.”
Hanks’ father signed him up for soccer when he was 4-years old, with no history of the sport in the household. Even so, before he’d even started the first grade, Hanks had found his love. He enjoyed the feeling that washed over him after the final buzzer of a tough game that he’d gotten the best of.
“His love for the game was what was probably most magnetic among his teammates," McCarron said. "He didn’t care who we were playing. He didn’t care who was upcoming. He was just excited to be on the field. That excitement just radiated across the rest of the roster.”
That passion rolled off of him in even the most noxious moments. Arundel fell behind often in postseason play, but Hanks was there to soothe his teammates’ anxieties, nearly every time. Hanks came into his role as a leader as he took on his other as a dominant figure on the pitch, in his junior season.
Of course, with 30 goals, Hanks’ input in the playoffs wasn’t constrained to words alone. Knotted at two goals apiece, Hanks potted the game-winner to lift Arundel over Howard in the 4A East Region I final in October.
Sometimes, Hanks couldn’t orchestrate a difficult game in his favor. Walking onto the field for the Wildcats’ state semifinal, the nerves running through him couldn’t be understated. He’d have to nearly double his lifetime to have been alive for the last Arundel semifinal appearance 32 years ago, and it was a stressed feeling he knew extended to his teammates.
Leonardtown hit first and early, scoring the lone goal of the affair in the first 10 minutes. Though he couldn’t recover in the parameters of the clock, Hanks did recover, learning a lesson he’ll bring with him on to UMBC.
“It’s a big occasion, people come out to watch you. It’s difficult to not get caught up in the big moment,” Hanks said. “It’s unfortunate to lose, and it’s tough afterwards, playing my last game. You can’t get too caught up in the occasion. Stay focused on the goal.”
Aside from his towering record, which will set a tall order for any future Arundel player hoping to leave their own name in the school’s record book, McCarron believes Hanks’ lasting impact will be one of his character.
“Spencer’s legacy in the program is, first-off, his love for playing the game. Playing it because you love and enjoy it, and that the hard work is worth it," McCarron said. "His legacy is one of humility, to be very good at what you do and yet be very very humble about it and appreciate the efforts of everybody around you because you are largely successful because of them.”