This weekend, four teams from each classification will go head-to-head in the Washington state boys soccer Final Four. We took a look at the matchups and identified the top players to watch across 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A.
Here are our top 20 boys soccer players to watch:
Jadon Bowton, Ferris, goalkeeper (Jr.)
From junior Caden Martin, to senior Solomon Katumbi, to double-OT game-winner-scoring Liam Kelly, Ferris has a range of goal scorers. But the Saxons’ top difference-maker is behind the net. Jadon Bowton junior is a 6-foot-4 junior goalkeeper with a high understanding of the game, great vision and a knack for being a distributor, according to Ferris coach Robin Crain. “He’s a team leader,” Crain said of his Bowton, who was a contributor for the school’s varsity basketball team as a sophomore. Simply put, Bowton’s rangy athleticism make him hard to score on.
Kevin Giessler, Jackson, midfielder (Sr.)
Kevin Giessler left the Sounders Academy to play for his high school as a senior, and sure enough, he’s a big reason why Jackson is playing in the final four. One opposing coach called him a “human highlight reel,” pulling off “rediculous” shots as an attacking mid who is skilled at finding space and putting pressure on defenses.
Drew Harris, Mount Si, midfielder (Sr.)
Faced with the option to play for the Seattle Sounders Academy, Drew Harris opted to play for his high school, and the assist-happy midfielder a big reason the Wildcats are back in the 4A state semis. He’s both technical and explosive, which evokes lofty comparisons from Mount Si coach Darren Brown: “Will remind you of Cristiano Ronaldo a bit as far as his game. Can put a ball on a dime anywhere he wants.”
Craig Johnson, Puyallup, forward (Jr.)
Craig Johnson led Puyallup in scoring throughout the regular season, and what a run that was. The Vikings went 7-1 to win the 4A South Puget Sound League, with Johnson as the top threat up top. Now with the Vikings in the 4A state semis, Jackson will have to pay close attention to the opposing striker.
Logan Oyama, Puyallup, midfielder (Jr.)
Puyallup has more than one consistent scorer, but when the postseason hit, Logan Oyama took over. The junior has scored seven goals — half the team’s output — to lead Puyallup through its deep postseason run. “It’s that kind of thing where you see someone pick the team up on their shoulder and say, ‘come with me,’ ” Vikings coach Matt White said. Perhaps that’s Oyama’s compeitive edge kicking into overdrive. White says he would put Oyama’s athleticism up against anybody. “The kid is not going to lose the athletic battle with anybody, I don’t care if it’s jumping jacks, cartwheels, he’s going to compete at everything.”
Sullivan Smith, Mount Si, forward (Soph.)
Sullivan Smith, a sophomore forward, scored a 4A KingCo-best 14 goals in the regular season, which earned him a first-team all-league selection and helped the Wildcats to a league championship and trip to the 4A state semifinals. He’s a “beast of an athlete,” says Mount Si coach Darren Brown. “Natural striker, hungry, fast, strong, a handful to cover.” If Smith returns to compete for the Wildcats after this season, don’t expect them to go anywhere.
Friday, May 24
Mount Si vs. Ferris, 6 p.m., Sparks Stadium (Puyallup)
Puyallup vs. Jackson, 6 p.m., Sparks stadium (Puyallup)
Saturday, May 25 at 5 p.m. Sparks Stadium.
Third place game
Saturday, May 25 at 12 p.m., Sparks Stadium
Justin Blachman, Lakeside, forward (Sr.)
Lakeside’s engine up top is senior Justin Blachman, and ask head coach Mark Szabo just what his forward does well, the answer is, well, everything. “He checks all the boxes of what you’d look for in an attacker,” Szabo said. “He gets his and creates for others as well.” The 6-foot Blachman is “super dynamic,” good in one-on-one situations and is able to outrun defenders with his foot speed. Plus, the Szabo describes the Claremont McKenna signee as having a “real nice soccer IQ.”
Jackson Buck, Bellevue, goalkeeper (Jr.)
There is more than one reason Bellevue has allowed just 14 goals on the season, but that credit starts with goalkeeper Jackson Buck. Buck, a junior, has been in front of the net for undefeated Bellevue’s eight shutouts, and has only conceded two goals this postseason. He also posted a shutout against the Wolverines’ 3A semifinal opponent, Interlake, drawing praise from Interlake coach Dan Peterson. “He doesn’t make any mistakes,” Peterson said. “He’s really really good.”
Rafael Otero, Lakeside, midfielder (Soph.)
Rafael Otero does a lot of little things really well, but put them all together? “He really creates havoc,” says Lakeside coach Mark Szabo. The 5-foot-2 sophomore center midfielder is small, but operates with a high motor. He scored the lone goal in the undefeated Lions’ 1-0 quarterfinal win over Stadium, and is as good a defender as he is an attacker.
Nick Peterson, Interlake, defender (Sr.)
Every good back line starts with a reliable center back, and for Interlake, Nick Peterson is Mr. Reliable. Not only does he have the quickness to match opposing teams’ top recruit, but he also adds value to the Saints’ attack, boasting a throw-in that Interlake coach Dan Peterson says plays as a corner kick anywhere from inside 35 yards. “He’s a good communicator, really, really good athlete, good in the air and he actually helps us on offense,” Dan Peterson said. Three of the center defender’s six assists on the year have come in the postseason, and the Bellevue Community College commit also has two goals.
Sybren Russel, Interlake, midfield/forward (Sr.)
Sybren Russel is a goal-scorer, and he’s Interlake’s best with 19 on the season. That includes two goals on Saturday in a 4-0 3A quarterfinal win over Wilson. His coach credits his instincts and drive toward goal. “He’s just always wanting to go forward,” Interlake coach Dan Peterson said of Russel, who has turned into a true forward this season. “He’s a good finisher who can do it both ways: make a move on his own, or do it on the end of a pass.”
Friday, May 24
Lakeside (Seattle) vs. Mountain View, 2 p.m., Sparks Stadium (Puyallup)
Bellevue vs. Interlake, 4 p.m., Sparks Stadium (Puyallup)
Saturday, May 25 at 3 p.m. Sparks Stadium.
Third place game
Saturday, May 25 at 10 a.m., Sparks Stadium
Morgan Antico, Sehome, forward (Sr.)
Morgan Antico hasn’t just scored a lot of goals for Sehome. He’s gained a tendency to score in big games, when they matter most. That’s what makes Antico, a Whatcom Community College signee, such an asset for the Mariners going into the final weekend of the season. It’s his work rate, Sehome coach Richard Henderson says, that helps him create chances in the final third. “He has a knack for being in the right space at the right time, which we know is not a coincidence,” Henderson said.
Jake Connop, Columbia River, forward (Jr.)
Last year as a sophomore, Jake Connop played in the midfield and was a key part of Columbia River’s state championship run. This year, he’s the engine behind River’s thus-undefeated season, which it has managed after losing several key seniors from last year. Connop has 26 goals and eight assists on the season — including a brace in the Chieftains’ 4-1 win in the 2A quarterfinals last weekend.
Morgan Kealy, Sehome, goalkeeper (Sr.)
Simply put: Morgan Kealy is a rock in the net for Sehome. The University of San Francisco signee is a big reason the Mariners allowed just seven goals throughout the regular season, and head coach Richard Henderson anticipates the senior will be instrumental defensively in the Mariners’ 2A state semifinal matchup against Toppenish.
Moises Mancillas, Toppenish, forward (Sr.)
Moises Mancillas was the Central Washington Athletic Conference player of the year for a reason. The senior forward and Walla Walla Community College signee has a league-best 26 goals on the season. “He’s just a strong overall player,” Uriel Gonzalez said. “He has a high IQ, is a good finisher. He’s everything you want in a forward.” When Mansias is on the field, good things tend to happen for Toppenish, a team in the 2A state semis a year after it was disqualified when the WIAA ruled it fielded a player too old to compete.
Juan Santiago, Toppenish, defender (Sr.)
At 5-foot-6, Juan Santiago isn’t the prototypical center defender. But the senior defender more than makes up for it with his commanding play in the back line. Combine his skill with his leadership, and that’s why Toppenish coach Uriel Gonzalez named Santiago the team captain. “He plays big, he’s got really good hops, can get up in the air, he’s a ball-winner, leader in the back,” Gonzalez said. “Controls back line, very smart player, knows where to be, knows where to win the ball, he doesn’t make too many mistakes.”
Friday, May 24
Sehome vs. Toppenish, 6 p.m., Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)
Columbia River vs. Fife, 8 p.m., Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)
Saturday, May 25 at 5 p.m. Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)
Third place game
Saturday, May 25 at 12 p.m., Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)
Jeff Friedman, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), midfielder (Sr.)
When Jeff Friedman is on the field, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) coach Andy Hackett feels as though there’s an assistant coach out there, facilitating the midfield. That’s the kind of leader Friedman is for the undefeated Eagles. “He’s our little Messi,” Hackett said. “He can do anything out there.” Proof of that can be found in his 21 goals and 22 assists on the season. The George Fox signee should play a big part in the Eagles’ chances in the 1A semifinals.
Isaac Garibay, Winlock/Toledo, midfielder (Sr.)
Isaac Garibay is a multiple year league player of the year, only this year, he was the overall POY, a step up from earning the nod on offense as a junior. And the senior has played a crucial part in leading Winlock/Toledo to a thus-far undefeated season entering the 1A state semifinals.
Ethan Williams, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), midfielder (Sr.)
Lakeside (NMF) has perhaps the state’s most prolific attack, which has accounted for 124 goals opposite 11 goals allowed. Ethan Williams is the leader of that attack. The senior Northern Idaho commit has accounted for 32 goals and 25 assists on the season. “He can create for himself if he needs to,” Lakeside (NMF) coach Andy Hackett said. “He’s a goal-scoring machine. All he does is put the ball in the back of the net.”
JJ Williamson, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), midfielder (Sr.)
Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) 124 goals scored has attracted praise to its attack, and rightfully so. But it has also allowed just 11 goals all season, and much of that is due to three-time league defensive player of the year JJ Williamson. The senior captain is the team’s defensive stalwart, and vocal leader on the field. And physically? He’s a rock. “I don’t think he’s ever been knocked down,” Lakeside coach Andy Hackett said.
Friday, May 24
Vashon Island vs. Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), 2 p.m., Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)
Overlake vs. Winlock/Toledo, 4 p.m., Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)
Saturday, May 25 at 3 p.m. Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)
Third place game
Saturday, May 25 at 10 p.m., Sunset Chev Stadium (Sumner)