Choosing players of the year for the respective high school sports is a difficult process. A great deal of discussion goes into the selections we make, and here’s a look at why I chose Squalicum’s Arne Peterson as the boys’ soccer player of the year, as well as the top four I widdled my choice down to.
1. Arne Peterson (Squalicum, Sr., midfield): Peterson was a leader through action, choosing to speak only when needed most. He did everything Joe McAuliffe asked him to do in the midfield, absorbing contact and sinking back to help in the back, melding Squalicum’s midfield to its defense-first philosophy. He had a knack for winning balls in the air, never trying to do too much, and putting quality shots on goal when given the opportunity. He finished the year with seven goals and eight assists — not typical numbers for a player of the year candidate — but in all the games I saw Squalicum play, his presence was unmistakable despite his quiet style of play. The biggest reason, though, is given the senior talent the Storm had, they all looked to him. On a team as dominant as the Storm, that says a lot.
2. Sam Diehl (Sehome, Sr., defense): Simply put, remove Diehl from Sehome and the Mariners don’t get to within one goal of making it to the state tournament. Sehome has a roster rife with young talent, all of which followed the lead of Diehl and fellow senior Sam Willis. He guided the Mariners’ defense to just 17 goals allowed in 19 games, third in the NWC behind Squalicum’s five and Bellingham’s 11. He also scored four goals on the year, mostly off set pieces, being the last person to score on Squalicum’s vaunted defense. John Sylvester, Sehome’s coach, put it best when he said Diehl was the Mariners’ “heart and sole.” Such praise put him in the final two for the award.
3. Hans Kogan (Squalicum, Sr., defense): Kogan was the captain of the best defense in the Northwest Conference, and possibly in the state no matter the classification. The Storm didn’t allow a goal for the final 16 games of the season, spanning more than 1,300 minutes, and his impact isn’t to be overlooked. He was boisterous and commanding, strong in the air and a capable leader for the talented group of B.J. James, Conner Stevens, Spencer Wallace and keeper Trenton Langer. His physicality defused corner after corner, putting him in the top three for consideration.
4. Nick Butschli (Blaine, Sr., forward): Butschli led all Whatcom County players with 13 goals and 29 points, but what his season will largely be defined by is his ability to help captain Blaine to its first ever Class 1A state tournament. He wasn’t a domineering leader some would expect, but his ability to make the right decisions and play within himself nearly had the Borderites past King’s in the first round of state. He helped change the culture of Blaine’s soccer program, and that can’t be understated.
5. Christian Chala (Squalicum, Sr., forward): Make no mistake, Chala was the most talented and skilled forward in the Northwest Conference. It just didn’t always materialize in goals. Chala finished the season with 10 goals and six assists, but when on the field, his presence always seemed to open up looks for the likes of Gabe Guidroz, a talented forward in his own right, Tyler Hughes, Quinn Carpenter, Zach Wallace, Arne Peterson and so forth. His physical style of play paired with finesse with the ball was a joy to take in, showing he’s certainly ready to play at the next level.