Lakeridge Athlete of the Year: Johnny Rodas
As a goal-scorer, there was no one in Oregon like Lakeridge's Johnny Rodas.
Plyaing for the Lakeridge boys soccer team, he scored on long, looping diagonals. He scored on hooking free kicks. He worked past multiple defenders to score on long blasts to the corner of the goal.
He sprinted past defenders to beat helpless goalkeepers both left and right. He collected long, bouncing passes and knocked home half-volleys. And he was virtually unstoppable on penalty kicks.
In response, he was honored in almost as many different ways as he scored.
He was named to the all-Three Rivers League first team, he was named TRL Player of the Year, he was named to the Class 6A all-state first team, he was named Oregon Class 6A Player of the Year, he was named Gatorade Player of the Year and he was named Prep Soccer Player of the Year (Male) at the Oregon Sports Awards.
To top it off, he played football for the first time in his life, stepping up as a placekicker for the Pacers and earning first-team all-Three Rivers League and honorable mention all-state honors.
For all those reasons and more, Rodas has been named the Lake Oswego Review's 2018 Athlete of the Year for Lakeridge High School. The Athlete of the Year honor is awarded annually to the top graduated senior athlete at Lakeridge High School. Rodas will continue his athletic career next year as a member of the Oregon State University men's soccer team.
Rodas' high school soccer coach — Lakeridge's Jason Bell — knew exactly why Rodas deserved this latest honor.
"Johnny has matured into a fine young man," Bell said. "He has shown a lot of resilience, dedication and hard work over the past few years to reach his goals."
Coming off a junior season in which his team had won a TRL crown and the Class 6A state title, and in which Rodas had been named first-team all-league, first-team all-state, Most Valuable Player of the state championship game, a Gatorade Player of the Year nominee and an Oregon Sports Awards nominee, he was expected to do even more and be even better as a senior.
And he was. Rodas continued his spectacular scoring feats, amassing 22 goals in just 13 games and also assisting on 14 others to fuel Lakeridge's potent scoring attack.
"Our goal (at the start of the year) was to go deep in the playoffs, even to win the championship again," Rodas said. "We lost our first two games — that was a big shock — but then we beat Clackamas and that kind of set the tone for the season."
After that slow start, the Pacers began to hit their stride and put together an eight-match unbeaten streak, going 5-0-3 in a stretch that saw them outscore their opponents 24-12, but which also included a modest 1-0-2 start to the TRL season.
Next followed a disastrous 5-4 loss to Tigard that saw the Pacers give up a two-goal lead in the final 25 minutes, and after that, a 4-2 win over West Linn, a 2-2 tie against Newberg and an 8-1 rout of Canby that sent the team into the playoffs with renewed hope.
But those hopes were not to be realized — the eighth-ranked Pacers dropped a 2-1 decision to No. 25 Cleveland in the first round of the state playoffs and were eliminated on their home field.
"We believed we had the talent to win it all, but obviously, it didn't happen," Rodas said. "Definitely, we thought we were going to win it all. I was doing my thing, (senior forward) Collin Pinkerton was doing his thing, the midfielders were moving the ball — I think we were doing everything right, but we just couldn't find the net."
As painful as the end of his high school soccer career was, Rodas still found plenty of fond memories to associate with his senior season, notably his last game against Lake Oswego — fittingly, perhaps, a 2-2 tie against the Pacers' crosstown rivals.
"It was a really tough game (and) I was sick, but I always really looked forward to playing them," Rodas said. "I love playing against them and we had a big crowd, which was fun. I love playing in front of big crowds."
Beyond that, Rodas created plenty of great memories for Pacer fans — and plenty of nightmares for opposing defenses. He also played in the High School All-American Game in December, eventually finishing his high school career with 55 goals and 41 assists.
"As a player, Johnny has the ability to score and create goals from just about anywhere," Bell said. "His shooting technique, power and accuracy were second to none at the high school level."
"I thought (playing football) would be a fun thing to do so I volunteered."
— Johnny Rodas
Rodas accomplished so much on the soccer field this year that he might have been chosen as Lakeridge's Athlete of the Year anyway, but when he stepped up for the Pacers' football team as a first-year player, he sealed his selection big-time.
Handling kickoffs and field goal attempts for the rejuvenated Pacers — they reached the state playoffs for the first time after a two-year absence — Rodas sent 18 of his 22 kickoffs into the end zone for touchbacks and also went 3 for 3 on field goal attempts, his longest a 36-yarder.
"I thought (playing football) would be a fun thing to do so I volunteered," Rodas said.
Rodas approached Lakeridge football coach Elvis Akpla with his idea, then — eventually — convinced Bell it would be safe for him to try.
After that, he just had to learn how to kick a football.
"I'd done it a couple of times, but not really," he said. "It took me a couple of days to get it down, but after you practice it for a while, it was nothing too hard."
Besides the shape of the ball, the biggest difference Rodas noticed between soccer and football was the size, volume and intensity of the football crowds, a fact that worried him at first and energized him later.
"I actually thought (kicking) would be easier than it was because there was a lot of pressure. The crowds were way different, way louder," he said. "I was scared at first, but after I kicked the first one, I was OK."
He was OK — to be fair, he was a lot better than "OK" — at kicking, but sometimes, even kickers are called upon to make tackles. Rodas said that Bell made it clear he didn't want his 5-foot-7, 150-pound midfielder/forward taking any chances on the football field, and for the most part, Rodas didn't have to — except for that one time.
"I helped bring a guy down in the Lincoln playoff game," Rodas said. "I saw him running toward me, I grabbed one of his legs and then another guy came over to help."
As exciting as all that was, it wasn't his one tackle, his many touchbacks or his three field goals that stood out as his best memory from football season.
"The best part was being around the guys," Rodas added. "Every time I'd get a touchback, all the guys would come over and pump me up."