Falcons striker named MVP

GLENDALE — Pavle Atanackovic was shocked when he earned All-Pacific League honors after serving as place kicker for the Crescenta Valley High football team.

As a member of the school's boys' soccer team, there weren't any similar surprises after he finished this season with a team-high 33 goals to help lead the Falcons to their second league championship in a row and a trip to the CIF Southern Section Division III quarterfinals for the first time in the program's history.

For his on-the-field contributions, Atanackovic was named the league's most valuable player, as voted on by the league's eight coaches.

"That was cool to get it in football, but I'm more proud of this," said Atanackovic, a junior forward. "I play football for fun, but soccer is my main sport.

"It took a lot of hard work and a lot of practicing. It feels great to be named MVP and I have another year left, and I'm going to try to win it again next year."

Atanackovic became the second Falcon in as many seasons to earn the accolade. Last season, Gor Grigoryan of Crescenta Valley shared the honor with Hoover's Arman Ter-Barseghyan.

Atanackovic said he looked up to Grigoryan for inspiration and tried to follow in his footsteps.

"That's why it's a big honor for me and it was one of the goals that I set out to get," said Atanackovic, who added four assists and finished with 70 points. "I kept that in mind and it motivated me this season.

"It took a lot of hard work by my teammates, who were there to get me the ball. We have a great chemistry and we were able to connect, especially on the field. They always seemed to know where I would be."

Crescenta Valley second-year Coach Kiel McClung said Atanackovic elevated his level of play when the Falcons needed him late in a match.

"He's a huge reason why we've won back-to-back league titles," said McClung, who was named the league's coach of the year after guiding the Falcons to a record of 15-3-5, 11-0-3 in league. "He was getting two or three goals a game for us in league.

"He was our point man and finisher. He got to play with a great supporting cast who gave him a lot of [scoring] opportunities."

Those receiving all-league first-team recognition for Crescenta Valley included Matt Schmutzer, Alex Berger, Chris Fierro and Salar Hajimirsadeghi.

Schmutzer, a junior, finished with one assist while playing defender. Berger, a junior, collected four goals and 15 assists while playing midfield and leading the transition game for the Falcons. Fierro excelled as a senior defender in helping the Falcons record eight shutouts and Hajimirsadeghi collected six goals and eight assists as a junior midfielder.

Burroughs finished second in the Pacific League and remained in the hunt for the league title late in the season. The Indians, who went 13-2-4 and 9-2-3 in league, were rewarded with six all-league selections, including three first-teamers.

Making the first team were senior midfielder Mauricio Cortes, senior forward Joan Alvarez and junior defender Julio Guillermo. Alvarez lead the team in scoring with 14 goals and 15 assists. Cortes had 11 goals and 14 assists and Guillermo held down the Burroughs defense.

Levon Sargsyan and Pedro Salinas of Glendale also earned first-team recognition..

Sargsyan helped the Nitros finish 11-3-8 and 6-2-6 in league for third place and reach the first round of the Division III playoffs. The senior forward collected 23 goals and 10 assists for 56 points.

"He's been consistent for us in the three years we had him at varsity," Glendale Coach Tulio Marroquin said. "He worked hard to help the team win and he was rewarded for it with a first-team selection."

Salinas, a senior sweeper, finished with two goals and four assists.

Burbank received one first-team player in senior forward Michael Alcaraz, who tallied three goals.

Among those named to the second team were Nick Ruiz, Jae Hoon Jung and Vahe Nalbandian of Crescenta Valley, Burroughs' senior midfielder Steven Munoz (six goals, seven assists) and sophomore defender Brian Azarte, Glendale's Eddy Torres and Rene Chicas of Hoover.

Ruiz, a junior goalkeeper, finished with eight shutouts and 98 saves. Jung, a junior midfielder, notched five goals and five assists, while Nalbandian, a senior midfielder, collected three goals and five assists.

Torres, a senior midfielder, contributed one goal and five assists. Chicas, a senior midfielder, had one goal and four assists for the Tornadoes, who finished 4-11-3, 2-9-3 in league for seventh place.

Junior midfielder Michael Shahnazarians (three goals) of Crescenta Valley, Hoover junior defender/midfielder Luis Lopez (two goals) and Glendale senior defender/midfielder Nick Villapando (three goals and four assists) received honorable mention, as did Burroughs' Manny Celio (seven goals, four assists), a sophomore forward, and Burbank's Maxwell Trautmann (five goals) and Arootin Teimoorian-Savarani.

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