Boys Soccer All-Area: Claremont’s Sam Newton earns player of the year and South El Monte’s Nelson Rodriguez earns coach of the year

By Fred J. Robledo, Staff Writer
Claremont High goalkeeper Sam Newton, the Tribune Player of the Year, had 14 shutouts this season. Claremont allowed just 22 goals in 27 games while going 22-3-2 and winning the Sierra League. (Watchara Phomicinda / Staff Photographer)

The San Gabriel Valley didn’t produce any boys soccer champions or teams that advanced to the finals.

It had more to do with misfortune than lack of talent, the Claremont High School boys soccer team being a prime example.

Claremont, the defending CIF-Southern Section Division 2 champion, was the top seed entering the Division 2 playoffs after going undefeated in the Sierra League. But the Wolfpack was upset 1-0 by La Sierra in the quarterfinals, finishing the season with a still-impressive 22-3-2 record.

Claremont, a team that did it with defense, allowed just 22 goals in 27 games, anchored by senior goalkeeper Sam Newton.

Newton, voted the most valuable player of his team, finished with 14 shutouts and was named the Sierra League player of the year and was a Division 2 first-team selection.

Newton’s season was so remarkable that he was named the San Gabriel Valley Tribune’s Player of the Year for the 2011-12 season, an award Wolfpack coach Fred Bruce-Oliver said was much deserved. (To continue, click thread).

COACH OF THE YEAR: Nelson Rodriguez, South El Monte
PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Sam Newton, Claremont, GK, Sr.
Defender: Stephen Barba, Claremont, Sr.
Defender: Michael Montoya, Chino Hills, Sr.
Defender: Jorge Jimenez, Ganesha, Sr.
Defender: Manuel Garcia, Mountain View, Sr.
Midfielder: Jorge Ramos, South Hills, Sr.
Midfielder: Agustine Huazano, La Puente, Sr.
Midfielder: Alex Casas, South El Monte, Jr.
Midfielder: Carlos Zarate, Mountain View, Jr.
Midfielder: Alexander Piceno, Sierra Vista, Jr.
Forward: Dennis Kantor, Claremont,Sr.
Forward: Keyran Kelly, Damien, Sr.

Goalkeeper: Julian Sanchez, Diamond Bar, Sr.
Defender: Martin Ruiz, Ganesha, So.
Defender: Luis Beltran, La Puente, Sr.
Defender: Luis Verdusco, Sierra Vista, Jr.
Defender: Kyle Goodenough, Damien, Sr.
Midfielder: Troy Ford, Claremont, Sr.
Midfielder: Alan Miranda, Mountain View, Sr.
Midfielder: Tommy Baker, South Hills, Sr.
Midfielder: Jordan Bingham, Damien, Sr.
Forward: Jorge Cruz, La Puente, Sr.
Forward: Raul Martinez, Bonita, Sr.

“When we vote on team awards, I don’t always agree with who the team picks, but in this case I absolutely agree, Sam was phenomenal this year,” Bruce-Oliver said. “Your goalkeeper is your second coach on the field, he’s your captain in the back and Sam did everything you could have asked.

“There were times he single-handedly kept us in games, and whenever you have a keeper like that, you always have a chance.”

Newton knows most valuable player awards are usually reserved for attacking players, and was humbled by the news.

“It’s really surprising because a goalkeeper isn’t a glory position,” Newton said. “But if you’re going to award me you have to award my entire backline because without those guys in front me, I can’t do the job that I do. It’s easy to take credit for all the accolades, but I have such an amazing defense that the award should go to all of us.”

South El Monte may have stumbled in the first- round of the Division 4 playoffs, but coach Nelson Rodriguez was named coach of the year after leading the Eagles to an improbable sweep over three-time defending Mission Valley League champion Mountain View to earn the league title.

South El Monte ended Mountain View’s 37-game league unbeaten streak with a 1-0 win at Mountain View, then clinched the title in the league finale with a 1-1 draw at home, ending with Eagles’ players piling on top of Nelson in a wild celebration.

South El Monte finished the season 11-2-2 overall and 9-0-1 in league.

“We’ve been chasing them (Mountain View) for three years,” said Rodriguez. “We finished second every time to them and we suffered a lot. It was an uphill battle, but we earned it. We earned it because we worked hard and put in the extra hours.”

The rest of the Tribune boys soccer first team includes four defenders, five midfielders and two forwards.

The backline was led by Claremont senior Stephen Barba, Chino Hills senior Michael Montoya, Ganesha senior Jorge Jimenez and Mountain View’s Manuel Garcia.

Barba was also named to the CIF-SS Division 2 second team and was a first-team Sierra League selection.

Montoya, a steady midfield presence, also earned Sierra League first-team honors for the Huskies,

Jimenez was a first-team selection in the Montview League and Garcia was named the defender of the year in the Mission Valley League, and was a Division 5 first-team honoree.

The first-team midfield consisted of South Hills senior Jorge Ramos, La Puente senior Agustine Huazano, South El Monte junior Alex Casas, Mountain View junior Carlos Zarate and Sierra Vista junior Alexander Piceno.

Ramos earned Sierra League first-team honors after helping the Huskies earn a playoff spot in the difficult Sierra, a huge turnaround for the struggling Huskies of a year ago.

The Warriors’ Huazano was named the Montview League most valuable player after helping his team to the league title and also was named to the Division4 first-team.

Casas, named the Mission Valley’s leagues most valuable player, was also a Division 4 first-team pick.

Zarate was a Mission Valley and Division 4 first-team selection after helping the Vikings reach the quarterfinals and Sierra Vista’s Piceno was named to the Montview League and Division 4 first-team.

Claremont senior Dennis Kantor and Damien senior Keyran Kelly were the lone strikers named to the Tribune first team.

Kantor, named to the Sierra League first team and Division 2 second team, led the Wolfpack in scoring with 14 goals and 10 assists.

Damien finished second behind Claremont in the Sierra League, and Kelly was a big reason why. The Spartans forward finished with 10 goals, 11 assists and was named to the Sierra first team and in addition to Claremont’s Newton, was the only other Sierra League first-team selection also named to the Division 2 first-team. 626-962-8811, ext. 2161

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