PLAYER OF THE YEAR

Frankie Garcia

Senior forward, Blackfoot

Frankie Garcia was a magician with the soccer ball at his feet. In his green-and-black striped Blackfoot jersey, the senior forward could encounter trouble, slip out unscathed and fire a laser into the back of the net. And he did that a lot.

Garcia finished the season with 25 goals and 13 assists as the Broncos went 16-2 and advanced to the 4A state championship game.

“He knows where to position himself on the field and he’s in the right place at the right time, always,” Hillcrest coach Ryan Ellis said. “There are a lot of players who are good at punishing you for your mistakes. Frankie is probably one of the best at doing that.”

His superb senior campaign came just a year after Garcia broke his collarbone twice, forced to watch the start and end of Blackfoot’s 2019 season from the sideline.

That 2019 season was supposed to be the coronation for Garcia as the best player in the area. He was first-team All-Area as a sophomore in 2018, set to follow in the footsteps of the Broncos’ two-time All-Area POY Coque Velazquez.

The injuries, both freak accidents, delayed that ascension.

“He was pretty gutted, without doubt,” Blackfoot coach Liam Pope said. “But once the day or the second day after the injury happened, you just move on. I don’t think he missed a single summer session that we did. He’s not going to dwell on it too much. He was burning to play.”

Fully healthy, Garcia gave Pope a unique weapon. The Blackfoot coach could use his star as a pure striker, getting into the box and scoring goals.

If the Broncos needed help controlling the game in midfield, Garcia could do that to, dropping back and creating for others.

“He gave us a genuine point, somebody sharp in the goal box,” Pope said. “Last year, a lot of the goals came from midfield. This year, we had a genuine scorer, and that helped us keep defenses honest. ... He scored goals, but he’d create goals, we could drop him deep into midfield. He’d sit there and battle in midfield too.”

FIRST TEAM

Zach Burnett, sr. GK, Preston

The lowdown: Burnett was the consensus best goalkeeper in the area, and it didn’t take long see to why that was more or less a unanimous opinion among local coaches. The lanky senior was the best pure shotstopper around, and combined that with good control of the box. Preston recorded four shutouts and held eight other opponents to just one goal.

Quotable: “It’s so important how goalkeepers control their defense, and that kid was so instrumental for Preston. I was impressed with him the most of all the goalkeepers I saw.” — Century coach Jamshid Roomiany

Evan Yost, sr. D, Century

The lowdown: Yost makes it four years out of four with an All-Area selection. The talented center back made the second team as a freshman before closing his career with three straight first-team appearances. Century had three shutouts and held teams to one goal in six other games, and Yost was the only 4A District 5 player to make all-state, getting an honorable-mention nod.

Quotable: “Evan Yost is a heavyweight center defender. He acted like a team leader. He was really good with the younger kids, treated them well. He took control of the center, he scored lots of goals for us, crucial goals, went up for the corners, and he was a real fighter.” — Century coach Jamshid Roomiany

Bryce Cornell, sr. D, Blackfoot

The lowdown: Cornell’s red hair made him stand out on the field, although he likely would have done that anyway. The big center defender took a step forward in his senior year, leading Blackfoot’s defense to six shutouts in 18 games and a spot in the 4A state title game. Cornell’s long throw-ins also made him a weapon for the Broncos on offense.

Quotable: “Just a rock. The thing with Bryce is he was always really good defending one-on-one, but this year, he marshaled the defense, he read the game, he won battles before they even happened. I knew he was going to be a solid defender, but what impressed me more is he became a soccer player as well as a defender.” — Blackfoot coach Liam Pope

Adolfo Alvarez, sr. D, American Falls

The lowdown: One of American Falls’ senior captains, Alvarez led a Beavers’ defense that gave up fewer than two goals a game. He also made plenty of contributions in the attacking third, scoring five times for A.F.’s high-powered offense.

Quotable: ”He is a very disciplined and respectful player. He’s good at positioning and anticipation, in general he knows where to pass the ball and where the ball might go, and he’s good with his marks and when pressing.” — American Falls coach Miguel Mata Rangel

Will Stilling, sr. D, Century

The lowdown: Stilling generally played right back for Century — until the Diamondbacks needed a goal, at which point coach Jamshid Roomiany usually pushed him up to right wing. And Stilling usually came through, scoring a number of important goals for the D-Backs, including the overtime winner in the district title game against Preston.

Quotable: “I think he flew under the radar a little bit. I kind of thought he didn’t get all the glory he should have got. Good player. His versatility, that says a lot about a player. When the game’s on the line and you need something to happen, he’s the guy that goes there.” — Blackfoot coach Liam Pope

Izzy Labra, sr. MF, Blackfoot

The lowdown: Blackfoot coach Liam Pope knows Labra didn’t put up the gaudy goalscoring stats of some of the other players on his team. But the Broncos boss couldn’t stop gushing over the senior midfielder, who did the dirty work of winning the ball and then spraying it upfield to get those dangerous attacks started.

Quotable: “Izzy is the guy who’s very quiet, but he gets things done on the field. He wins every tackle, he can play every position you ask him to. It wasn’t just enough to hold the midfield and win challenges, he had to start attacks too, and he did. That’s a heck of a big thing, when you can start an attack 60 or 70 yards away from goal. He’ll pick the right ball at the right time.” — Blackfoot coach Liam Pope

Dominic Sanchez, sr. MF, Blackfoot

The lowdown: Although generally playing further up the field than Labra, Sanchez formed a devastating partnership with his fellow senior in central midfield for Blackfoot. His passing and dribbling drove the Broncos forward, allowing them to turn defense quickly into attack.

Quotable: ”Dominic took his game to a different level this year. His passing range was bang-on, his speed moving the ball was really good, and that meant we could move forward quickly. He was bigger, stronger this year, and on top of that Dominic scored a lot of important goals.” — Blackfoot coach Liam Pope

Tregan Younis, jr. F, Highland

The lowdown: With a COVID quarantine and some injuries, Highland was a mess early in the season. But when the Rams got healthy, they shocked No. 1 seed Idaho Falls with a 2-1, double-overtime win in the first round of the district tournament. Younis scored the winner in that game and generally played all over the field for Highland.

Quotable: “He could play anywhere, that guy. The other teams in the district are tough because they play together all year, but Tregan, I think he’s one of the better players in the district. We put him back on defense and he helped out for a while, but then we needed him to push the ball too, and attack.” — Highland coach Mark Muzzo

Kam Murdock, sr. F, Century

The lowdown: Twisting and turning, always looking to drive at defenders with the ball, Murdock was a nightmare to contain and provided a lot of Century’s offense by cutting in from the left wing. Murdock makes his inaugural All-Area first-team appearance after two years on the second team, and is signed to continue his career at Blue Mountain Community College.

Quotable: ”He carried the team on the left, attacks relentlessly, constantly, just runs at the opponent. Kam has scored some really, really nice goals, and he played super hard. He didn’t leave anything behind, he gave it all.” — Century coach Jamshid Roomiany

Kadin Reese, sr. F, Preston

The lowdown: Reese again led Preston’s line as the Indians pushed Century for 4A District 5’s only state-tournament spot. With speed, a sense of the game and a wicked shot, Reese was constantly dangerous for Preston, and ended up with 19 goals and 11 assists for the Indians.

Quotable: ”He’s that kid we just looked to up front. We knew he would get the job done for us and if it was close, he was the one we were looking for. A lot of it is the extra time and effort he put in. The kid plays year-round and it’s his passion. He loves to score.” — Preston coach Kira Matthews

Jose Jaime, sr. F, American Falls

The lowdown: Jaime scored 34 goals in 2019, but wasn’t the focal point of an American Falls team carried by All-Area Player of the Year Brian Martinez. In 2020, he ascended to that role himself and didn’t miss a beat, scoring 23 goals and being named A.F.’s player of the year.

Quotable: ”He’s often underappreciated. He’s solid in the middle, he keeps the team together, he’s extremely athletic. He was our top player.” — American Falls assistant coach Caroline Wight

SECOND TEAM

David Staats, fr. GK, Highland

Staats was thrown into the fire as a freshman ‘keeper behind a shaky Highland defense, but improved — just as the whole team did — as the Rams got healthy late in the season.

Trey Northrup, jr. D, Pocatello

Just a junior, the physical center back Northrup was nevertheless the leader of an improved Poky team, and also scored two goals for the Indians — one a game-winner and one an equalizer.

Ian Young, sr. D, Pocatello

After suffering through some rough seasons with Poky, Young was a big part of its best season in years, with tough defending at fullback plus five assists — mostly due to his pinpoint dead-ball delivery.

Rafa Villa, sr. D, American Falls

Like Adolfo Alvarez, his partner in A.F.’s defense, Villa was a senior captain for the Beavers and made the 3A all-state team.

Garret Surmelis, jr. MF, Century

Surmelis moved up from defense to central midfield and continued his typical no-nonsense, under-the-radar, completely solid brand of play for Century.

Mikey Montanez, sr. MF, Century

Montanez missed plenty of time with multiple injuries this year, but when he was on the field, the classy, hyper-alert central midfielder was one of the most talented players in the area.

Manuel Rosales, jr. MF, American Falls

Rosales didn’t even play his freshman year at American Falls, but the advanced midfielder has improved greatly over the past two seasons and potted 12 goals for the Beavers in 2020.

Tyce Shumway, MF, Preston

Shumway split his time between midfield and forward for Preston and was a big contributor for the Indians with six goals and five assists.

Ty Miller, sr. MF, Preston

Miller, an All-Area second-teamer at center back last year, moved up the pitch in 2020 and treated opposition midfields like a bowling ball treats pins, smashing his way to six goals and eight assists.

Sean Phinney, sr. MF, Highland

Phinney, a four-year varsity player for Highland and 2018 All-Area second-team selection, was a versatile leader for the Rams in his senior year, and the lone Highland player voted first-team all-conference.

Brayden Stouse, F, Century

Century needed a striker in 2020 and hit on the solution by moving Stouse, a former midfielder, up to the top of the formation. He could play with his back to goal, sending the D-Backs’ wingers through for opportunities or scoring himself.