ORANGE PARK – St. Johns Country Day School, ironically, rode the forehead of 6’3” forward Max Monroe into the playoffs and beyond while Oakleaf High slashed and dashed behind Braden Ammon’s …
ORANGE PARK – St. Johns Country Day School, ironically, rode the forehead of 6’3” forward Max Monroe into the playoffs and beyond while Oakleaf High slashed and dashed behind Braden Ammon’s dozen or more goalies, but it was Keystone Heights High goalie Caleb Cushman who had the biggest team impact of the year as the three Clay County soccer stalwarts lead the Clay Today SUPER 11 boys soccer team.
Cushman and company; Monroe at SJCDS, Ortiz at Ridgeview and Coussens at Fleming Island, put the Clay County soccer seen in good standing with district titles from the Golden Eagles (4A) and St. Johns (1A) and a runnerup finish from Ridgeview (3A). Keystone Heights and Oakleaf were key teams in their respective districts, but had to negotiate tough district contests; Crescent City and Santa Fe; 150-8-3 and 16-5-2, respectively, with both 10-1 in districts for the Indians (12-8-2, 9-3) while Oakleaf had to stave off top teams; Creekside, Fleming Island and Nease in district 4-4A to repeat as champions.
Ridgeview, with a dismal 7-10 season record after a region final finish in 2018, uncorked a thrilling finish of their season with an ininjured Miguel Ortiz returning to the lineup to get a region playoff berth as district 3-3A runnerup to Ponte Vedra, a Final Four finisher. Also key to the Panther finish was the speed play of outside mid Jaiden Turner who time and time created the threat on attack that led to action in front of goals. Turner was nearly the hero in the overtime region playoff loss to Stanton.
Cushman, a recent signee to Bethel College, an NAIA school in Kansas, anchored coach Trevor Waters Indians team for four straight years.
Cushman, a senior, started 22 games this year and produced a 13-8 won/lost recrod with 195 saves (9 per game) and three shutouts, plus 11 one-goal games; nine wins, two ties.
Monroe, pushing the Spartans to a 13-3-1 season finish that ended with on overtime loss in the region 1-1A finals as the boys soccer team at St. Johns had the unenviable task of keeping up with the girls soccer team that won an eighth straight title. Monroe, one of the biggest athletes on the Spartans attack, was instrumental in offering a scoring threat on any corner kick or any served up ball; mainly from Dru Detlefsen, with game-altering headers at the district final and into the regions.
Alongside Monroe, with 18 goals, Matt Wolfe was the moving force of the Spartans playoff runs pushing the ball deep into enemy territory to either score or set up the Detlefsen-to-Monroe head ball corner kick set.
In the Spartans goal, Jared Marsano deflected enough shots to get 12 shutouts in the St. Johns 13-3-1 record.
For Ammons, in the fast-paced attack of the Oakleaf High Knights, his slashing into the scoring box was key to the Knights success and also the dagger for enemy defenses as Ammons was normally covered with two or three defenders to slow his game. Ammons, with 12 goals, was key to the Knights district title in 2017 and a key defensive target in 2018.
For Keystone Heights, lead scorer was Dean Hogg, just a sophomore for coach Trevor Waters, who planted 23 shots into the net for the Indians. Hogg also added 12 assists.
For Fleming Island, a second Davis, Connor, emerged as a viable middle man with teammate Avery Coussens providing wing man support as the Golden Eagles avenged their overtime district loss to Oakleaf, in semifinals, before taking out Nease to return the trophy to Highway 17.
Davis finishged with 13 goals, nine assists with Coussens accounting for 11 goals with three assists.
Clay High, with coach Joshua Bookstore putting a positive stamp on the program, got high mileage play from forward Wendy Charles, a junior, who got eight goals in the Blue Devils five win season. With Bookstore inheriting a program that had nine wins in six season, Charles has been a part of 11 wins in Bookstore’s last two season; winless in first year.