Leg up on the competition

He's got a leg, and he knows how to use it.

Opponents have learned that the hard way when left-footed Gary Au lets one loose from his midfield position.

The Flintridge Prep boys' soccer player has frequently caught opposing goalkeepers by surprise after rocketing a ball past them from long distance.

Such a strong foot ? one which can routinely kick a soccer ball three quarters of a football field ? has earned the 17-year-old plenty of impressive accolades during his four years as a Rebel.

This past season, he was named the Prep League's Most Valuable Player and earned a spot on the CIF Southern Section Division V first team, his second All-CIF nod.

The sportswriters and editors of the Glendale News-Press, Foothill Leader and Burbank Leader also named Au the All-Area Player of the Year for his outstanding senior season, one which produced another Prep League championship.

"Gary's the engine that drove our offense," said Stephen Oderkirk, who resigned after the season as the Rebel head coach.

"He's our freekick specialist, and it's because of his incredible leg. Sometimes, he's got too much of a leg, because he can really put it out there."

Au says he developed such a leg playing kickball as a kid, which is how he got introduced to soccer.

"One of my friends started playing AYSO, and he thought it'd be a good idea for me to join, too," Au said. "He said that I could kick the ball pretty far in kickball, so I should play soccer."

And so, at the age of 8, Au began playing the world's most popular sport.

It didn't take long before it became his passion.

After getting his feet wet at the AYSO level, he then began playing club soccer with the La Cañada Flyers, which allowed him to make the varsity team as a freshman at Flintridge Prep.

By the time he was a sophomore, Au was an intricate part of Flintridge Prep's starting lineup.

He earned all-league honors as a midfielder, and then the next year, he showed his versatility by playing sweeper.

The change in position didn't affect his performance.

He led the Rebels to a share of the league title and earned All-Prep League and All-CIF honors.

"That just shows you the type of kid he is," Oderkirk said.

"He had always played midfield, but he never complained about moving to stopper. He did what was best for the team and what gave us the best chance to win."

In 2006, the Rebels' best chance to repeat as league champion rested heavily on Au's ability to control the midfield, which he did effortlessly.

He was second on the team with nine goals and added six assists, giving him 24 points on the season.

But what Au is most proud of from his senior season is the team's success.

The Rebels went 14-7-1 this past year and claimed an outright Prep League championship.

"That was our focus from the beginning," Au said of repeating as league champion.

"This team had a lot of chemistry together, and we had a lot of fun playing with each other.

"We had a really strong bond."

Au hopes to experience the same thing at the next level.

He has plans on walking on and playing Division I soccer, either at Santa Clara University or the University of San Francisco.

For him, life without soccer isn't an option yet.

"I've been playing the sport for so long and am so used to practicing and doing all the other stuff, that if I went to college and didn't play, I wouldn't know what to do with my time," Au said.

"I love the sport, and I can't just give it up."

PLAYER OF THE YEAR

GARY AU

FLINTRIDGE PREP

SENIOR

MIDFIELDER

Prep League MVP was a first-team All-CIF Division V selection

COACH OF THE YEAR

MARK RUBIO

HOOVER

16th SEASON

Guided Tornadoes to their first playoff victory during his tenure

FIRST TEAM

JAIME NU—O

HOOVER

JUNIOR

FORWARD

Was the leader of Hoover's offense, paving way for 18-win season

JARED IZUMI

ST. FRANCIS

SENIOR

MIDFIELDER

Was an All-CIF Southern Section Division II second-team selection

ISAAC JABOLA-CAROLUS

FLINTRIDGE PREP

JUNIOR

FORWARD

All-CIF third-team selection led Rebels with 11 goals on the year

EVAN EL-SADEN

LA CA—ADA

SENIOR

FORWARD

Multi-sport athlete was a first-team All-Rio Hondo League selection

HAKOP AVESYAN

LA CA—ADA

SENIOR

FORWARD

Like El-Saden, Avesyan was a first-team All-Rio Hondo League pick

JAMES HERNANDEZ

HOOVER

JUNIOR

MIDFIELDER

All-Pacific League first-team honoree was a driving offensive force

JUSTIN ZEPEDA

BURROUGHS

SENIOR

FORWARD

Led the Indians with 10 goals to finish with 23 points on the season

JOEY FRANCO

ST. FRANCIS

SOPHOMORE

DEFENDER

Up-and-coming standout earned first-team All-Mission League nod

SPENCER ROSS

BURROUGHS

SENIOR

DEFENDER

Four-year varsity player was a first-team All-Foothill League pick

YAHTZA VELASQUEZ

CRES. VALLEY

SENIOR

MIDFIELDER

Was Crescenta Valley's biggest offensive threat

DEVIN KING

LA CA—ADA

JUNIOR

GOALKEEPER

Earned Rio Hondo League Most Valuable Player honors

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