A brute force roams the midfield for the Franklin Pierce High School boys soccer team.
His name is Ryan Sandoval.
Last season, Sandoval was named to Washington State Coaches Association’s Class 2A all-state team as a defender — in part for his keen vision on the pitch, and part for his pure physical nature.
And his nickname was certainly all-state caliber — “Drago,” as in Ivan Drago, the tall, muscular Russian boxer from the movie “Rocky IV.”
“When you look at him, he looks like Drago from ‘Rocky,’” Franklin Pierce coach Steve Andersen said. “But more than that, he has that presence on the field that’s intimidating to opponents.”
Sandoval, a senior captain, loves the movie-character comparison. Not just because he is 6-foot-4 and 200 pounds, but because he’s not afraid to bully opponents.
“(It’s) a person that loves to win balls,” Sandoval said when describing the mindset it takes to play as a center defender. “I’m a big guy, and that’s what I do. You (have to) jump over guys, head the ball, win the slide tackles. Heck, I’ve broken legs over my time from sliding tackles.
“It’s a brutal game. People get hurt.”
It is unknown if he says “I must break you” before he attacks.
“That’s his position. That’s what he got state for,” said Cardinals co-captain Corey Shockley, who, like Sandoval, was voted to the all-2A South Puget Sound League first team last season. “Without him in there, we lose a little bit because there’s more space to move the ball around.”
Sandoval is as unique of a
center defender as they come. Andersen knows this best because he coaches the teenager in another sport — golf.
Last May, Sandoval had to enter a district qualifying tournament at Gold Mountain Golf Complex outside Bremerton to make the state tournament, and he sewed up one of the spots.
Right after that, he and Andersen hopped on a ferry to Everett to meet the soccer team for a first-round state matchup against then-No. 1 Archbishop Murphy.
Franklin Pierce upended the Wildcats, 1-0, in a shootout at Memorial Stadium. Sandoval’s defense was crucial in slowing the high-scoring Wildcats.
It was “the best game of my life,” Sandoval said.
Andersen said he thinks that effort netted Sandoval the all-state honor.
“He was just locked in,” Andersen said.
Soccer and golf might be about as opposite of sports as any. That they are both played outside is one of their few similarities.
Sandoval sees another.
“In golf, it’s just you out there focusing on your game,” Sandoval said. “In soccer, it’s about you a lot of times. It’s a team game, but what you do can affect the entire back line. You have to read the ball in the air and put yourself in the right place and time it right when you go for the 50-50 header chances.”
Focus? Sure. Taking charge of a team in the heat of action and bullying forwards in a way Drago, himself, would be proud of? That’s something Sandoval gets only from soccer.
“He’s very vocal out there with our defense,” Andersen said. “Ryan doesn’t shy away from correcting something and whipping everyone back to where they need to be.”
PREP SOCCER PRIMER
Stronger. That is the word Bonney Lake coach Luke Helling-Christy used to describe his defending Class 3A state championship squad, which returns eight of its top 10 players from a year ago. Even though the Panthers lost SPSL 3A player of the year Suwilanji Silozi at forward, they have a great finisher in transfer Austin Hendrick and should own the center of the field with returning all-league midfielders Dalton Ogdon and Tyler John.
Narrows 4A — Gig Harbor. SPSL South — Federal Way. SPSL North — Jefferson. Narrows 3A — Wilson. SPSL 3A — Bonney Lake. SPSL 2A — Fife. Evergreen 2A — Aberdeen. Nisqually 1A — Bellevue Christian.
PLAYER TO WATCH
With a stellar supporting case around him, Jefferson High School forward Brandon Madsen led the SPSL North in scoring the past two seasons — including a 20-goal season for the Raiders in 2013 en route to making The News Tribune’s All-Area team. Now he is the guy who will likely get marked by multiple defenders, and Jefferson coach Dave Hanson does not want the Gonzaga-bound striker to try to do it all by himself. He has a power leg to score from all over the field.
BEST OF THE REST
SPSL 4A: D Garrett Brewer, Federal Way, sr.; D Glenn Carpenter, Jefferson, sr.; D Keegan Crook, Kentwood, sr.; GK Jake Fredrikson, Rogers, sr.; F Eddie Na, Curtis, sr.; F Devin Pegues, Federal Way, sr.; MF Aung Ta, Beamer, sr.; F Samuel Vargas, Jefferson, sr.; F Adam Wilson, Kentridge, jr.
Narrows 4A: F/MF Drew Barker, Bellarmine Prep, sr.; MF Jamison Corbin, Olympia, sr.; MF Steve Johnson, Central Kitsap, sr.; MF Tanner Stepp, Gig Harbor, jr.; MF Aaron Weathington, South Kitsap, sr.
SPSL 3: GK Alex Fausko, Auburn Mountainview, sr.; F Noah Hanks, Peninsula, sr.; MF Tyler John, Bonney Lake, sr.; MF Dalton Ogdon, Bonney Lake, sr.
Narrows 3A: F Ian Karanja, Mount Tahoma, sr.; F Jose Ramos, Foss, sr.; F Oswald Ramos, Wilson, sr.; MF Munassar Saleh, Wilson, jr.
SPSL 2A: MF Zak Rawson, Sumner, sr.; D/MF Ryan Sandoval, Franklin Pierce, sr.; F Mack Smith, Fife, jr.; GK Ulises Zepeda, Fife, sr.
Evergreen 2A: GK/F Chris Behnke, River Ridge, jr.; D Daniel Pailthorp, Capital, sr.; GK Andres Valdes, Aberdeen, jr.
Nisqually 1A: MF Bennett Close, Bellevue Christian, jr.; F Andrei Dyson, Cascade Christian, sr.; Gubidxa Gutierrez-Seymour, Charles Wright Academy, sr.Kevin Manning: 253-597-8680 firstname.lastname@example.org