Austin Fares has always been a soccer nut.
When his friends come over, they beg to watch something other than the English Premier League highlights on television, but he rarely budges.
When the Mesa Red Mountain senior was younger, he wouldn't go to the park for a basketball game, he'd go to Hermosa Elementary School and take shots on big sister Nicole.
"She was a goalie, and I was a forward," Fare said. "It worked out well."
His passion for the sport never waned, and it has paid dividends.
Fares is the Tribune's Boys Soccer Player of the Year after scoring 25 goals this season and leading Mesa Red Mountain to the 5A-I title game, where it lost 1-0 to Gilbert Highland.
The final match stung, but the run is something he will remember fondly.
"We were definitely proud of how far we got," Fares said.
Fares played several different sports as a kid, but gravitated to soccer. It's something his three siblings enjoy as well, and a day at the soccer field became a common event.
Fares has a natural gift for it, and would love to turn that into a post-collegiate career. If not, he has a nice backup plan.
Fares is headed to Point Loma Nazarene College in San Diego, where he will major in biochemistry. He has a 4.4 grade-point average and is a member of the National Honor Society.
Between year-round soccer and hitting the books, Fares doesn't have a ton of leisure time.
So when he does, the requests from his friends to change the channel usually fall on deaf ears.
"The goal highlights are the best; they just don't see how it's interesting, but I like it," Fares said.
ALL-TRIBUNE BOYS SOCCER
Athlete School Pos. Yr. COMMENT
Austin Fares Red Mountain F 25 goals for 5A-I runner-ups
Nick Ayers Brophy F 26 goals, 13 assists for Broncos
Alan Puga Highland F Scored lone goal in 5A-I title match
Trever Allen Corona del Sol F 14 goals, 14 assists for Central Region offensive player of year
Robert Solomonson Mesa MF 13 goals, many on headers
James Cohn Brophy MF Sr. All-Arizona coaches selection
Brandon Hansen Mountain Pointe MF Sr. All-Arizona coaches pick
Jorge Figeuroa Coronado D Sr. East Sky Region player of the year
Rayce Lawrence Red Mountain D Sr. Best defender of a stingy group
Brett Dirvonis Highland D Sr. Fiesta Region defensive player of the year
Michael Smith Red Mountain GK Sr. Allowed one goal in state tournament
Athlete School Pos. Yr. COMMENT
Mark Sekelsky Scottsdale Christian F Sr. 21 goals, 5 assists this season
A.J. Goshinka Highland F Sr. 19 goals, 15 assists for state titlists
Yuri Ribeiro McClintock F Sr. Desert Sky Region player of the year
Graham Crawley Chaparral MF Led young team to championship match
Kerel Bradford Hamilton MF Jr. Steady influence in the middle for Huskies
Johnny Humphrey Valley Christian MF Sr. Led Trojans to title match
Michael Faust Gilbert D Sr. Held Tigers’ defense together
Cesar Mendivil Chandler D Sr. All-Arizona coaches selection
Josh VanAllworden Corona del Sol D Sr. Top defender, added six goals and four assists
Jaime Lara Mesa D Jr. Heart of defense, and ace penalty kicker
Matt Bersano Corona del Sol GK So. Despite youth, one of best goalies in state
Player of the Year: Austin Fares, Red Mountain
Coach of the Year: Tim Barmettler, Highland: Retired in style with 5A-I title.
Basha: Connor Burke, Sr., D; Bryce Delizo, Jr., MF; Monty Riggs, Sr., F. Brophy: Graham Smith, Jr. D; Ben Anderson, Jr., D; Lucas Mazier, Sr., D; Derek Taddie, Sr., D; Quentin Grigsby, Sr., MF. Chaparral: Matthew Matiski, D, Fr.; Douglas Jamison, MF, F. Corona del Sol: Derek Rusher, Jr., MF; Matt Widjaja, Sr., F; Brian Hoyt, So., MF. Coronado: Nicolas Nava, Sr, MF; Jair Rebollar, Sr, MF. Chandler: Ryan Helzer, Sr., GK; Heber Mena, Sr., MF. Desert Vista: Aaron Brandt, Sr., MF; Dobson: Chris Trevyllian, Sr., D.; Derek Freeman, Sr., F. Gilbert: Storm Lilly, Jr. F; Jordan Meier, Jr. GK. Hamilton: Daouda Cisse, Sr., F; Tanner Clay, So., D. Highland: Josh Zaun, Sr., MF. McClintock: Xavier Carrillo, Sr., MF. Mesa:; Frank Brzeczek, Jr., D; Antonio Lara, Sr., GK. Mesquite: Sadiq Mohamed, Jr., F. Mountain Pointe: Ryan Leach, So., D; Brandon Hanson, Jr., MF; Ricky Jamison, Sr., MF. Mountain View: Zach Droll, Jr., D; Ben Killpack, Sr., F; Carlos Bustillos, Jr., MF. Perry: Nick Miller, So., F.; Zach Morrison, Jr, MF; Ricky Cuevas, So., GK. Queen Creek: Adrian Coronado, Fr., MF; Ricardo Lopez, So., MF. Red Mountain: Zach Place, Sr., F; Justin Drappo, Sr., D. Saguaro: Chris Defeyter, So., MF. Scottsdale Christian: Sean McDowell, So., MF. Seton Catholic: Tim Molloy, Sr., MF. Tempe: Patricio Quijano, Sr., D. Williams Field: Saif Savaya, Jr., MF.
State tournament scheduling has become a controversial topic at the 1A/2A/3A level, mostly because of the long distances non-metro Phoenix schools must commute into town with a one-day turnaround between the semifinals and championship. But a significantly easier commute couldn’t help Chandler Valley Christian, which lost with 10 seconds remaining in double-overtime to Wellton Antelope in the championship match. Daniel Nowtash had a second-half goal taken away on a hand-ball ruling. The ninth-seeded Antelope wound up defeating the No. 1, 2, 5 and 8 seeds to win the title.
Coach Tim Barmettler made the decision to retire following this season, and left with quite the parting gift. His Gilbert Highland boys team defeated Mesa Red Mountain 1-0 in the state championship for a dream ending. It was the second title in three years for Highland.
Tempe Corona del Sol went into the 5A-I state tournament undefeated in the 12 contests which counted toward power points. No. 16 Chandler, though, wasn’t impressed, knocking off the top-seeded Aztecs 2-1 in penalty kicks in the opening round. The Wolves were beaten in the quarterfinals by Phoenix Brophy, but the upset validated the sentiment that it would be a wide-open race to the title.