All-Area Boys Soccer: Armand Bagramyan is Player of the Year; Bosco Tech’s Diego Back, in his first season, earns Coach of the Year.

Player of the Year: Armand Bagramyan, La Canada, Jr.
Coach of the Year: Diego Back, Bosco Tech, First year

GK: Jonathan Ibarra, Bosco Tech, Sr.
FW: Matt Laterza, St. Francis, Sr.
FW: Andrew Powers, La Salle, Sr.
FW: Reed Miller, Monrovia, Jr.
MF: Austin Frank, St. Francis, Sr.
MF: Jeff Becker, La Canada, Sr.
MF: Benoy Menon, Pasadena Poly, Sr.
DEF: Cesco Luna, La Salle, Sr.
DEF: Eric Maldonado, Monrovia, Sr.
DEF: Jeremy Viramontes, Bosco, Sr.
DEF: Thomas Banks, St. Francis, Sr.

GK: Graham Labran-Boyd, La Canada.
FW: Smail Belhamra, Pasadena, Jr.
FW: Diego Gonzalez, Arcadia, Jr.
MF: Hayden Berge, La Salle, Sr.
MF: Armaan Zare, La Canada, So.
MF: Eric Bocanegra, St. Francis, Sr.
MF: Briley Venti, La Salle, Jr.
MF: James Alewine, Monrovia, Jr.
DEF: Aiden Tourani, La Canada, Jr.
DEF: Steven Blackwell, S. Pas., Sr.
DEF: John Silk, San Marino, Sr.

By Miguel A. Melendez, Staff Writer
Sara Reingewirtz/Staff Photographer

It wasn’t a fluke, that much is clear.

When La Canada High School’s Armand Bagramyan netted 21 goals and eight assists as a sophomore last year, pundits pointed to the fact Bagramyan had the luxury of space around him with fellow stars Cameron Meeker (24 goals, 19 assists) and Matt Canatta (21 goals, 20 assists) commanding most of the attention from a swarm of defenders.

This season, Bagramyan put doubters to rest for good. The junior forward attacked with relentless fashion, waltzing his way around defenders before shifting into third gear and bursting past them with breakaway speed. He went on to score 23 goals and 15 assists in a season where he missed four consecutive games because of a lingering injury and was limited to no more than one half in at least three more games, a couple in which he played less than a minute because of the same injury.

Still, Bagramyan proved to be the real deal, becoming the most prolific scorer while leading La Canada to a third consecutive unbeaten season in the Rio Hondo League and a second-round appearance in the CIF-Southern Section Division 5 playoffs. It’s the third consecutive season the Spartans boast a player who has scored at least 20 goals in the season. So it’s no surprise that Bagramyan is the third consecutive player out of La Canada High to earn Star-News Player of the Year in the 2011-12 season.

It’s becoming clear that La Canada soccer doesn’t rebuild. The Spartans simply reload. But it’s very possible that Bagramyan faced the toughest challenge with sole attention focused on him. That was the case in the second round of the playoffs against Mountain View with at times surrounded by six defenders.

“He didn’t have the same supporting cast as last year,” La Canada coach Alex Harrison said. “Six guys defending one player, that took away our whole offense.”

Bagramyan, who also earned first-team All-CIF honors and the Rio Hondo League’s most valuable offensive player, carried himself on the field with the same kind of swagger that made Meeker (Sacramento State) and Canatta (University of Hartford) Division I athletes.

“It shows what kind of great athletes come to this school,” Bagramyan said. “Being compared to Cameron and Matt and getting this award like them too is big for me.”

But what he possess is prototype size, breakaway speed and strength. It’s arguably what makes the junior an even more threat and potential Division I recruit. Bagramyan set out to work in the offseason and improve his work ethic. It showed on the pitch in his ability to create space working off the ball. He’s as versatile as they come, a forward who doesn’t shy from physical play. In fact, he thrives off it. Bagramyan was made captain this season, just another example of his strong work ethic paying dividends.


Bagramyan is the first to admit his mistakes. A double-yellow card forcing him to sit out a game.

“That was a wake-up call for me because my coach made me captain and I had the responsibility of being a role model,” Bagramyan said. “I couldn’t be arguing with refs and making stupid fouls.”

Bagramyan would miss the next three games because of a right foot injury at first believed to be a deep bruise. It turned out to be a hairline fracture he’d been playing with for half the season.

In a game against San Marino, Bagramyan was not slated to play. But he felt his team needed him. Two minutes after entering the game, Bagramyan needed to come out, the injury proving too much to handle. His right foot became numb.

“I thought it was mainly because of the taping, maybe too tight and because we iced it too much,” Bagramyan recalled.

Upon the tape being pulled off, Bagramyan saw his entire foot black and blue. It was time to head to the hospital. But the visit to Verdugo Hills Hospital didn’t last long. Doctors told Bagramyan blood would flow again in a few minutes. He asked if he could return to the San Marino game and play, the Spartans trailing 1-0 at the half. Doctors adviced him to sit, but Bagramyan played. He entered the game in the 70th minute and scored on a free kick before reeling off a run to score and give the Spartans a 2-1 lead. But a mental lapse brought on a yellow card when he took off his shirt in celebration. He would have to come off the field momentarily as a result of a yellow, and in that time he was out San Marino scored with a minute left in the game to forge a 2-2 tie.

“I shouldn’t have done that,” said Bagramyan about taking off his jersey. “I learned a lot from my mistakes, but also from my coaches and teammates. This season just made me an overall better person.”

Bosco Tech’s Diego Back in his first season earned 2011-12 Star-News coach of the Year honors after leading the Tigers to an impressive 18-2-3 overall record and Camino Real League title after going 8-0-2 and a quarterfinal appearance in the Division 6 playoffs. Bosco Tech finished ranked 40th in the state and 67th in the nation in its division.

Back, who prepped at powerhouse St. John Bosco, hopes to elevate Bosco Tech’s program. He has the experience and the tenacity to get it done. When his mind is set, nothing seems to stop him. He carries a Bachelor’s, Master’s and Juris doctorate degree. Back is an attorney at his firm by day, accomodating his schedule to be a dedicated coach. He sets the example for his players.

“With working at the firm and going to Bosco Tech during the season it’s a challenge, but one well worth it,” Back said. “Just making sure that the boys understand that hard work will pay off in the future.”

Bosco Tech goalkeeper Jonathan Ibarra and defender Jeremy Viramontes also earned All-Area first-team honors. The tandem also earned first-team All-CIF honors.

St. Francis also is well represented in the All-Area team as it is virtually every season with senior Matt Laterza as one of the three forwards. Senior Austin Frank is a midfielder and senior Thomas Banks is a defender. The trio led the Golden Knights to a third-place finish in the Mission League, arguably the second toughest league in Southern California behind the Trinity League. St. Francis got off to a rough start, but challenged until its final game of the season for a league title before a tough 2-1 loss to Ventura in the second round of the Division 1 playoffs.

La Salle senior Austin Powers, a forward, recorded 10 goals and seven, leading the Lancers to a Del Rey League title after going 7-1 with a 15-4-3 overall record. Fellow senior Cesco Luna is a defender. He earned first-team All-CIF honors in Division 4. Luna scored two goals and netted five assists while anchoring La Salle’s backline that gave up only 23 goals all season.

La Canada’s Jeff Becker, a senior, is a midfielder with savvy passing skills. He scored eight goals and dished out 14 assists while helping the Spartans finish 6-0-4 in league. Pasadena Poly’s Benoy Menon is the other midfielder. He is a first-team All-CIF selection and scored five goals and eight assists for the Panthers.

Monrovia junior Reed Miller is the third forward and senior Eric Maldonado is the fourth defender. Miller led Monrovia to a 6-1-3 record in league and 18-8-4 overall. He finished with 10 goals and five assists while also earning first-team all-league honors. Maldonado earned most valuable defensive player honors in the Rio Hondo League anchoring a backline that allowed only 34 goals all season.

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