After finishing the season on a high note with six straight wins, the second-place Coppell boys soccer team was found up and down the list of 6-6A all-district honorees.
Senior Sebastian Blaas was voted as the midfielder of the year. Following a dominant junior campaign when he scored a team-high 16 goals and won this same award, Blaas registered team highs in goals (eight) and assists (four) to help Coppell to a 23rd consecutive playoff berth.
“Marcus just scored so many goals this year,” said James Balcom, Coppell head coach. “It was tough to put him up for anything above midfield player of the year, but when I put his name up all of the coaches, I could see them on the zoom meeting shaking their heads. They knew he was the guy for that spot.”
Fellow senior MJ Fleeks was an anchor defensively and was honored as a co-defensive MVP. Fleeks, after sitting behind some players as a junior, helped Coppell allow the second-fewest goals in district play (16) — only behind nationally ranked Flower Mound Marcus (11).
Fleeks also added one goal and one assist.
“I have to be honest. I didn’t expect him to have that kind of year going into this year,” Balcom said. “There were some rough patches early on, but when I put him up at the all-district meeting, it was pretty evident that all of the other coaches kind of knew who he was and the role he played and how crucial he was to our defense. He very much deserves that defensive player of the year as well.”
Tom Vazhekatt cracked the first team with another brilliant display offensively. Vazhekatt’s eight goals were tied with Blaas for the most on the roster, coming after he scored 12 as a junior.
“I think it was a good variety of guys making first team,” Balcom said. “Kind of represented all phases of the game, from the goalkeeper, through the midfield, defense and forward as well. Tom definitely had the most goals out of our four, so I think he was very deserving of that first team.”
Maxwell Winneker, who finished with two goals and recently committed to Hardin-Simmons, saw his impact go well beyond the box score and was a first-team midfielder.
Like Fleeks, Nathan Hernandez’s presence in the back earned him a distinction as a first team all-district defender. Coppell posted two shutouts in the final six games.
Sophomore goalie Arath Valdez shined throughout and led him to a first team selection, allowing 20 goals in 18 games while pitching five shutouts.
“Max moved up to the midfield and signaled our change,” Balcom said. “Same with Nate moving back to center back, locking down the defense. A little disappointed Arath didn’t get goalkeeper of the year, but a district like ours, I know it’s tough. The Hebron kid got it. He was very well deserving.”
Four Cowboys cracked the second team – Caleb Razo, Nicholas Radicic, Walker Stone and Ben Wang.
The youngsters – Radicic and Stone – were unfazed at the varsity level. Radicic, only a freshman, scored four goals next to his three assists, while Stone finished with three assists in his sophomore year.
“They were very consistent players for us,” Balcom said. “I think they started just about every district game in their role. Walker more of a midfield-type player, but we needed him at left back this year. He slid in and played the role incredibly well. Radicic, freshman center forward in a district like ours, a freshman to be able to play that role, that position and hold guys off. That’s incredible.”
Razo scored two goals and finished with three assists. Wang shifted around to different positions and was an integral figure in Coppell’s success.
“Ben kind of bounced around a little bit for us,” Balcom said. “He did a great job in the midfield as well. Razo, that change of pace player, kid who just paid to beat anybody at any time on the dribble. When he was able to do those things, he created a lot for us.”
Daniel Nelson, Adam Saif and Preston Taylor each were selected as honorable mentions.
Nelson was bumped up to the varsity level midway through the year and scored one goal as a right back for the Cowboys.
“Speed-wise, he’ll be one of the fastest kids in the district next year, so that’ll be exciting to have back,” Balcom said. “I’m not sure someone works harder up and down the line than he does. That was another huge piece for us this year."
Saif, committed to Buffalo State, scored twice and had two assists, finishing it off with a goal over Flower Mound – the defending 6A state champion – in what turned out to be his final high school game.
“The Senior Night versus Flower Mound, he scored the first goal and almost had a couple others,” Balcom said. That was one of the best games he played. He came in and provided a little spark for us at times.”
Taylor was one of the younger players who made his presence known right away at forward, with his three assists as a freshman ending up tied for the second-most on the roster.
“I know he was frustrated at times not getting much on the scoresheet, but we talked to him quite a bit like, ‘I know you’re not scoring and providing physical statistics, but since you’ve been starting, we’ve won every game. You’ve got to look at it in that standpoint. Your work ethic, your energy, your fight is just as important,’” Balcom said. “All forwards want to score. He’ll slide into that role. As a freshman, that’s tough to do. We were very impressed with everything he brought to the table. I think every year he’s just going to get better and better.”