Defensive Minded: North’s Johnson is The Republic Boys Soccer Player of the Year

For Anthony Johnson, making his mark on the soccer field does not have to involve putting the ball in the net himself.

The senior was more than content to play defense and distribute the ball to his forwards and midfielders during his career at Columbus North, and this year, that led to a multitude of wins for the Bull Dogs. They went 19-2-1 and won Conference Indiana, sectional, regional and semistate titles on their way to a Class 3A state runner-up finish.

“Scoring is not what it’s all about for me,” said Johnson, this year’s The Republic Boys Soccer Player of the Year. “I find myself being much more of a team player. As long as the team wins, I’m good with that. I don’t need to score.”

Johnson did record one goal and finished second on the team with 11 assists this season. He led a defense that allowed only 12 goals in 22 games from his center defensive midfielder position.

“He created a lot of goal-scoring opportunities through his outstanding defensive presence and quality attacking skills,” North coach Andy Glover said. “With the team in front of him, he was able to find the right players in the right moments to make their job of getting assists and goals easier.”

After playing center back growing up in club soccer and being an attacking center midfielder as a freshman at North, Johnson has been a mainstay as the defensive midfielder the past three years.

“It allows me to kind of dictate a lot of what goes on on the field,” Johnson said. “I have my backline behind me, so I know I always have help no matter what I do. I have my attackers ahead of me, and that allows me to see the rest of the game and know what they want to do.”

Glover estimates that in 22 games this season, Johnson came off the field for a total of only about 2 minutes.

“His level of commitment to the team over the past three seasons has been a monumental piece of our success in that time frame,” Glover said. “Anthony brought a wealth of leadership and experience both on the field and off the field for our team. This leadership permeated the team in a very positive manner. We talk about leadership being influence, and he’s done nothing but influence the team in a positive way in terms of leadership and performance.”

Johnson’s production on the field hasn’t gone unnoticed. He was the lone Bull Dog to make All-District honors last season, and this year, he was a first-team All-State selection by the Indiana Soccer Coaches Association.

“That was huge for me,” Johnson said. “I didn’t even expect to make All-District last year. I didn’t even know what it was until I heard that I made it. To get honorable mention (last year) was phenomenal, and to go from honorable mention to the highest, it’s just incredible to me. I was really proud of that.”

Johnson’s father, also named Anthony, was a soccer player and wrestler at North and University of Indianapolis. The younger Johnson started playing soccer at age 3.

“I grew up around that most,” he said. “I think soccer is where everybody starts in terms of sports. I stuck with it. A lot of my friends also played soccer. A lot of the neighborhood guys, that’s what we did.”

The younger Johnson also played played basketball in sixth grade, and wrestled as a sophomore. He practiced with the wrestling team last year, but did not compete, and is leading toward doing the same thing this year.

“It takes a different athlete to be a wrestler,” he said. “The conditioning and what it takes just physically and mentally to be in that room every day of your week, it’s intense. That’s a very difficult sport, and I’m happy to be a part of it.”

Johnson is hoping to be able to continue his soccer career at the collegiate level. He has taken academic visits to Hanover, Butler, UIndy and Indiana University, but so far, has only talked to Hanover and DePauw about playing soccer.

Whether or not this was the end of his competitive soccer career, Johnson is happy with how it went.

“From where I started to where I ended, I am more than content,” Johnson said. “To go from one of the worst seasons in school history my freshman year to state runner-up in three years, that’s something that should not be overlooked, and I’m happy to be a part of that. I’m glad we could reconstruct what North soccer is all about.”

The Republic All-Area Boys Soccer team:

Anthony Johnson, Columbus North: The senior netted one goal and 11 assists and led a defense that allowed only 12 goals in 22 games.

Aidan Whitley, Columbus North: The junior recorded five goals and seven assists in only 10 games.

Christian Cardoso, Columbus North: The junior scored nine goals and led the Bull Dogs with 16 assists.

Flynn Keele, Columbus North: The senior netted nine goals and six assists.

Nathan Imlay, Columbus North: The senior led the Bull Dogs with 11 goals and had three assists.

Eduardo Cordova, Columbus North: The senior helped lead a defense that allowed only 12 goals in 22 games.

Obed Oliva, Columbus North: The junior recorded seven goals and seven assists.

Cam Trueblood, Columbus East: The senior had one goal and one assist and led a defense that allowed only 22 goals in 16 games.

Pete Coriden, Columbus East: The senior posted six shutouts and 1.40 goals-against average.

Justin Sylva, Columbus East: The junior had one assist and helped lead a defense that allowed only 22 goals in 16 games.

Nathan Davis, Jennings County: The senior led the Panthers with five goals and 11 assists.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Carter Norcutt, Aaron Woodrum. Columbus East: Eduardo Aranda Michel, Jake Hofelich, Ben Sylva. Columbus North: Oscar Ballinas, Thomas De La Cruz, Max Grewe, Nico Gotoh, Konnor Gribbins, Leo Iorio, Raul Oliveria. Hauser: Elian Esclante, Lakota Robbins, Zach Weichman. Trinity Lutheran: Andrew Bell, Prader Kiel.