Over the past three years, the fortunes of the Franklin boys soccer program have risen in large part due to the tandem of Owen Atkison and Joe Nerding up front.
When Nerding went out for a few matches with an injury midway through the regular season, Atkison was forced to shoulder an even heavier burden than normal — and the junior delivered.
Tying a school record with 33 goals while also dishing out 13 assists for a 13-win Franklin team, Atkison is the Daily Journal’s 2017 Player of the Year.
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Far from just an offensive machine, Atkison was one of the Grizzly Cubs’ team captains (along with seniors Nerding and E.J. Young), and he sports the highest grade-point average on the roster.
“He just does everything the right way,” Franklin coach Tony Harris said. “He really epitomizes what I wanted the program to look like six, seven years ago when I started.”
Atkison possessed the ability to score in bunches, collecting at least three goals in seven different matches. He scored four goals against both Martinsville and Greenwood, and he erupted for six in a midseason win against Whiteland when Nerding was sidelined.
He added two more in a sectional first-round victory against the Warriors before the Grizzly Cubs were upset by Roncalli in the semifinals.
“We were dominating the game,” Atkison recalled. “We just could not put away our chances.”
That loss left a bitter taste in Atkison’s mouth, but it also left him with one more goal to chase during his senior season.
In addition to leading Franklin to what would be its first-ever sectional championship, Atkison also wants to graduate with the school records for goals in a season (he tied it this fall) and a career (he needs four more to tie it). He’d also like to land a spot on a Division I college roster, preferably Xavier or Indiana University.
Harris plans to enjoy Atkison’s final season in Franklin, and he ultimately hopes that players like him and Nerding will rub off on the next generation of Grizzly Cubs.
“You want a kid like him in every class that you have,” Harris said of Atkison.
Year-by-year stats for Owen Atkison:
_ tied school record
The 2017 All-Johnson County team for boys soccer:
Owen Atkison, Franklin junior: Amassed a school-record 33 goals and tied for the team lead with 13 assists. … An All-District pick and a member of the Academic All-State team.
Will Bowling, Center Grove senior: Helped lead a stingy Trojan defense that allowed just 17 goals in 17 matches. … Selected to the Academic All-State team.
Jacob Cooley, Center Grove senior: An All-MIC, All-District and Academic All-State pick. … Gave up just 15 goals on the season as the last line of defense for the Trojans.
Ben DeRose, Center Grove senior: Led the Trojans with seven goals and also dished out three assists. … A first-team All-District choice and an All-MIC selection.
Gerrit Huizinga, Greenwood Christian senior: Top scorer for the Cougars with nine goals and 12 assists. … Helped the Cougars win a Class A sectional title.
Griffin Huizinga, Greenwood Christian junior: The team MVP for the sectional champion Cougars. … Scored six goals and added 10 assists on the year.
Owen Mahin, Franklin sophomore: Tied for the team lead with 13 assists and added 10 goals for the Grizzly Cubs. … Selected to the All-Mid-State Conference team.
Joe Nerding, Franklin senior: Hard-nosed team captain finished with nine goals and nine assists despite missing six matches due to injury. … An all-conference honoree.
John Nystrom, Center Grove senior: Earned first-team All-District honors as one of the quiet leaders of a strong Trojan club that yielded just one goal per match.
Dawson Raymond, Center Grove senior: An All-District and Academic All-State pick who scored a pair of goals and made key contributions all over the field for the Trojans.
Shawn Sullivan, Whiteland junior: Scored 21 of the Warriors’ 46 goals on the season. … Earned second-team All-District honors and was also an Academic All-State choice.
Daniel Wilson, Greenwood Christian junior: Anchored a defense that surrendered just 20 goals in 19 matches en route to a sectional crown. … Had two goals and four assists.
Luke Boha, Center Grove; Angel Capi, Greenwood; Isaac Couch, Whiteland; Ian Dwight, Center Grove; Austin Given, Whiteland; Jonathan Graber, Greenwood; Jack Neal, Center Grove; Ethan Pheifer, Franklin; Caleb Sanders, Whiteland; Andrew Sauter, Center Grove; Nick Shirer, Center Grove; Robert Velasquez, Franklin; Gabe Vessely, GCA; E.J. Young, Franklin