To put into perspective how well-rounded a soccer player Ferndale's Heath Sowers is, heading into his league-best 22-goal campaign the senior striker didn't know if he'd spend 2012 scoring goals or preventing them.
Sowers loves scoring but not as much as he likes winning, and the senior Golden Eagle was willing to play whatever position needed to be filled most.
"I wasn't surprised by his production," Ferndale coach Scott Browne said in a phone interview. "He's a kid you can put anywhere and he'll shine. You can put him in the attack, and he can play there. He also is an incredible defender and is tough in the back."
Browne said he had several defenders elevate their play, which gave Browne the confidence he needed to put Sowers up top.
"I hadn't actually played forward in a while (previous to the 2011 season)," Sowers said. "I've just always had this thing where I've been able to score goals."
Whatever his trick was - when it came time to score - Sowers proved to be a magician with the ball. He has been selected The Bellingham Herald's Boys' Soccer Player of the Year. Squalicum coach Joe McAuliffe, who led the Storm to the state quarters and a Northwest Conference title, has been selected Coach of the Year.
Sowers was a defender as a freshman and played a center-defensive-mid role during his sophomore season.
After Sowers' brother - Caden Sowers - graduated in 2010, following a 24-goal junior season and a six-goal senior season, Browne moved Heath to an attacking role in the midfield, where he instantly flourished as a goal producer.
Heath scored 46 times during his career and nearly doubled his scoring production each season (three goals in 2009, seven in 2010, 14 in 2011 and 22 in 2012).
"The season went well for me," Heath said. "It was the most goals I've scored in a high school season. It was nice to have the goals, but I would have traded them in for a couple more wins."
Ferndale won four of its last five matches, but the Golden Eagles finished with a 7-9-0 record overall and couldn't sneak into the Class 3A District Tournament.
Despite being a marked man nearly every match, Heath utilized his sturdy, compact frame and vast soccer experience to do his part in helping Ferndale reach the playoffs.
"I've ran into him a couple times, and he's solid," Browne said of Heath. "He's hard to physically push off the ball. He's a trunk. He's a very stout kid who has incredible quickness for his size. He has a willingness to shoot from anywhere. There's not many who'd expect him to blast shots from 25 yards out and score. That's what separated him."
Heath said he developed a joy for being the focal point of opposing defenses.
"I actually think it's fun being man-marked," Heath said. "Instead of thinking and dribbling, I have to react quicker. I felt a little pressure. Knowing a lot of coaches and players that man-marked me, I would mess around with them. But as soon as I got the ball, it was all business."
Heath's utilization of his body strength helped him fight off opposing defenders. It's a trait he developed with the help of his two older brothers Ben and Caden, who were also soccer standouts in Browne's Ferndale soccer program.
Heath said he used to set up a goal in his backyard, and he and his brothers would take turns trying to score on each other.
"I got pushed around a lot," Heath said. "My brothers would put together pick-up games with U18 and U19 kids. I think it helped me later."
Browne certainly took notice of Heath's exceptional strength and balance with the ball.
"It's really nice to have generation after generation play for me," said Browne, who coached Ben and Caden. "They're all quality players but with different traits. The Sowers brothers all have incredible touch on the ball, and they have moves that can twist you three ways to Sunday."
Browne said Caden was fast and could chase down a defender to get the ball back if he took a bad touch. He said Heath was different because he always got a shot off before he lost the ball. Browne said Ben was a blend of both Caden and Heath.
Caden, who plays soccer at Western Washington University, has bragging rights over Heath for most goals scored in a season at Ferndale with 24, but Heath said his 22 goals surpassed Caden and move him into second on Ferndale's career-goal list.
Heath said next year he's taking his soccer skill to Orca Field, where Whatcom Community College coach Joel Grossman, like Browne, will have the luxury of playing Heath just about anywhere on the pitch.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862.
ALL-WHATCOM COUNTY TEAM
BOYS' SOCCER PLAYERS OF THE YEAR
2012: Heath Sowers, Ferndale
2011: Matt Sanchez, Bellingham
2010: George Karadimas, Squalicum
2009: Connor Shipman, Squalicum
2008: Alex Couweleers, Meridian
2007: Nick Cashmere, Bellingham
2006: Jake Jorgensen, Meridian
This is the second in a series of packages honoring the standout student-athletes of the 2012 high school spring sports season. The All-Whatcom County teams and Athletes of the Year are selected by the Sports staff of The Bellingham Herald. Here is a look at the dates this season's teams will run:
Girls' tennis: Bella Hoyos, Bellingham
Boys' soccer: Heath Sowers, Ferndale
Softball: Coming June 9
Baseball: Coming June 10
Girls' golf: Coming June 14
Boys' golf: Coming June 15
Girls' track and field: Coming June 16
Boys' track and field: Coming June 17
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.