David Abbott-Smith was a rising sophomore for the Sehome boys' soccer team two years ago. As was B.J. Flood, although for Bellingham.
Squalicum coach Joe McAuliffe remembers the two vividly, seeing them become prominent players in the Northwest Conference despite being so young.
"I remember B.J., thinking I was underestimating the little guy on the wing and thinking, 'Oh my god, this kid is talented and he's only a sophomore. Yikes, we have two more years of facing him,'" McAuliffe said. "And David, his name I knew about, but we'll only have to contend with these young sophomores for two more years."
Abbott-Smith earned All-Whatcom County honors his sophomore year after recording 10 goals and a team-leading 15 assists. His life revolved around soccer, and it showed in his performances. Likewise, Flood, albeit only 5-foot-4, played much larger than his stature, making his way onto a varsity roster under coach Matt Zigulis before accounting for six goals.
In surprising moves, both felt they needed a change in scenery, deciding to transfer from their respective schools to Squalicum to start anew. They likely changed, to some small degree, the fortunes of both their former schools and Squalicum as well.
"Sehome really wasn't doing it for me," Abbott-Smith said. "Mostly a change. Different classes - different people. I'm not going to say it was the best choice ever, but definitely I would probably do it again if I could."
McAuliffe has reaped the reward of their decisions, with the two becoming key players for a Storm squad that has an undefeated 18-0-2 record entering a Class 2A boys' soccer state quarterfinals matchup with Hockinson at 6 p.m. Friday, May 23, at Civic Stadium.
Their decisions to transfer weren't a coincidence. Flood and Abbott-Smith were childhood friends, both seeking a fresh start. In particular, the two saw Squalicum as a good fit with the wide array of advanced placement classes. Soccer didn't factor into either one of their decisions, both said.
It wasn't until tryouts last year that Flood even realized what this team could be.
"Once I saw all the people, because going through school during the day I don't really see everybody, so actually when I got to see the whole team, what it could've been, I was like, 'Alright, this is going to be a good year,'" Flood said.
At the time, Abbott-Smith and the game of soccer were at odds. He left Sehome to get away, not necessarily to even play soccer at Squalicum.
"I was pretty much burnt out and done with competitive soccer all together," he said. "I was going to Seattle six days a week playing for the Seattle Sounders FC Academy for three or four months. I was 15 and couldn't even drive, so it put a lot of burden on my parents to go out of their way, and it put a lot of burden on my teachers. I had to leave school early and get home at 10-10:30 at night."
On one hand, he said if he continued down that road, Division I scholarships would have likely been in his future. On the other hand, his life would have continued to revolve around soccer, and that was to the detriment of everything else. He wondered if it was worth it, if he could continue to put his parents and himself under all the weight of his future.
That's why he decided for the better part of a year to walk away completely - to wash his hands of competitive soccer.
"If I would have stuck with that, I would be getting D1 offers left and right," he said. "If that's what I wanted, that's a good thing, but at the time it wasn't what I wanted, so it was a good choice to step back."
Flood had no such thoughts of leaving the game. He had his own battles given that because the two transferred without moving, they had to play their entire junior seasons on junior varsity.
While Flood managed his way against inferior talent, he watched as his former school, Bellingham, put together an 18-2-1 season without him, advancing all the way to the state quarterfinals.
He couldn't help but think what could've been had he stayed.
"I was really thinking was my choice good? But it was more of I shouldn't be looking at this soccer-wise," he said. "It's more of the academic reasons and being able to actually do school. ... I really did want to play with that team. That was a tough switch."
Flood, being the more mild-tempered of the two, accepted his year on junior varsity easier than his longtime friend. Abbott-Smith said he resented junior varsity, having to play down given all he had done the previous season for Sehome.
"At first, to be honest, I had a pretty terrible attitude about it. I was pretty pissed off," Abbott-Smith said. "As the season went on, I realized it was necessary for me to at least be a leader on JV and show a good attitude, and though I may not have shown it as much as I meant to, I definitely felt like people around me taught me to humble myself and realize I'm not the center of attention and never will be."
Coaches even walked up to McAuliffe and acknowledged the "gross mismatch" the two presented going up against junior varsity players. Abbott-Smith said he recorded a hat trick in just 10 minutes in one particular game.
In time, though, the year came to an end and they were able to join the varsity club permanently.
The talent McAuliffe has at his disposal is almost unexplainable, he said, with Flood and Abbott-Smith only adding to the bevy of players he already had.
Gabe Guidroz, Christian Chala, Arne Peterson, Hans Kogan, Trenton Langer, Conner Stevens, Chad Stevenson, North Bennett, Avery Wolfe, Flood and Abbott-Smith make up possibly the most talented group of seniors the NWC has seen in years, McAuliffe said. Juniors Quinn Carpenter, Zach Daniels and Zach and Spencer Wallace also see significant time, posing a challenge to their coach in how to build a rotation that gets all his talented players time.
That, McAuliffe said, has been his greatest test.
"We have so many good players that deserve time and everyone, down to the 21st, is capable of playing against any of our opponents," he said. "In every spot, there are two or three people that aren't on the field at that time that are capable."
It says a lot when McAuliffe has Abbott-Smith, a former All-Whatcom County standout, coming off his bench.
Flood, too, has benefitted from the deep bench given his frenetic style of play, tracking back and helping a defense that hasn't allowed a goal in the 13 consecutive games.
"Each game I feel like we're getting a little closer to our peak," said Abbott-Smith, who scored in Squalicum's opening-round 7-0 win over Sumner. "Hopefully that peak is the state finals, but right now, we're firing on all cylinders."
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
SQUALICUM VS. HOCKINSON
When: 6 p.m., Friday, March 23
Where: Civic Stadium