By MICHAEL COIT
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT
Soccer helped bridge Noah Wilson’s move from small-town Vermont to Petaluma, and three years later, the high-scoring forward led Casa Grande High to one of the program’s best seasons.
Scoring nearly a goal a game while also making teammates better, Wilson was the best player in the very challenging North Bay League and helped Casa Grande win a pair of playoff games to reach the North Coast Section semifinals. The UC Davis-bound Wilson is the Empire Large School Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
“I love the game and I want to play for my teammates. I worked really hard every game to make the team better,” Wilson said. “It was an awesome year.”
Coming off an All-Empire season as a junior, Wilson was even better as a senior. Wilson was already committed to play at UC Davis, yet he pushed to improve both skills and fitness and lead the Gauchos with often exemplary play.
“His attitude in training and in games was outstanding,” Casa Grade coach Lee Summerscales said. “He always gave 100 percent with a winning mentality, and coaching other players along the way. Noah was a true leader.”
Wilson’s work ethic was evident when he joined the Casa Grande program. Wilson and his family moved to Petaluma from Hartland, Vt., following his freshman year in high school, where he made varsity and started. Already playing club competition in New England, including indoor soccer, Wilson welcomed the challenge of raising his level of play in Petaluma. He plays with the Marin FC club program.
“It was a big change. I was nervous at first, but it was good. I worked and trained as hard as I could. It was intense,” Wilson said. “Meeting people through soccer definitely helped.”
Proving himself on the pitch helped Wilson make the transition and earn a starting spot as a sophomore with the Gauchos.
“The pace of the game was faster and just better overall. I had to get fitter,” Wilson said.
As Wilson improved, so did Casa Grande. After not making the section playoffs Wilson’s sophomore year, the Gauchos won a section match his junior season and two playoff contests this year.
“He always had a natural gift with a soccer ball. He has the ability to score goals from anywhere on the field,” Summerscales said. “Noah’s very good about finding the space or creating space for others, receiving the ball with time to take a run or play in the right pass.”
Going into this season, Wilson was a marked man, often doubled by defenders as teams did not want him to beat them. Yet those efforts to contain Wilson were minimally successful. Wilson scored 18 goals in 20 games and made his share of assists.
“I had to work harder,” he said. “But soccer is never about one player. It was an awesome opportunity to be motivating and encouraging.”
Helping captain Casa Grande was a well-earned honor for Wilson.
“He played his socks off. He worked really hard every game to make the team better,” Summerscales said. “To score the goals that he did and still play the way he did, when there were almost two to three guys on him all the time, and he still had an outstanding year.”
Highlights on the season for Wilson included scoring three goals in a trio of contests, defeating Maria Carrillo on Casa Grande’s senior night, and the section semifinal appearance.
“Being able to get as far as we did in the playoffs was awesome,” Wilson said.
Take the flying forward out of the game and Casa Grande would not be nearly as strong.
“He was the big reason we had such a successful year,” Summerscales said.
Always happy to compete, never wanting practices to end, Wilson will play on at UC Davis. The senior season and more club competition should help prepare Wilson for the rigors of the college game.
“Everyone is really good,” Wilson said. “You just have to be ready for that. You have to be mentally strong.”
Making the most of opportunities and being a constant headache for opponents are abilities that should translate well into the college game.
“I’ve learned a lot here and to be humble,” Wilson said. “You never like arrive anywhere. There’s always room for improvement.”
All-Empire Large School Boys Soccer
Player of the Year
Noah Wilson, Casa Grande, senior
Marco Barragan, Piner, senior
Carlos Melendez , Elsie Allen, senior
Chris Ortiz, Montgomery, junior
Evan Martinez, Montgomery, junior
Clay Varnbuhler, Maria Carrillo, senior
Caesar Farias, Maria Carrillo, junior
Paco Villegas, Casa Grande, senior
Bryan Juarez, Santa Rosa, senior
Kevin Leon, Windsor, senior
Bryan Ruiz, Sonoma Valley, senior
Alex Coronel, Analy, junior
Julio Chavez, Montgomery, senior
Martin Macias, Montgomery, senior
Devin Braehmer, Casa Grande, senior
Angel Palomares, Santa Rosa, senior
Felipe Chavez, Ukiah, senior
Kevin Leon, Rancho Cotate, senior
Eladio Avila, Healdsburg, junior
Anthony Garcia, Sonoma Valley, senior
Ivan Galvan, Analy, junior
Saul Valencia, Analy, junior
Tarwinder Purewal, Petaluma, junior
Coach of the Year
Antonio Garcia, Santa Rosa