Top honors for Knights

GLENDALE — If he wanted better results on the field, he first needed to take the initial steps toward improvement off the field.

In the case of St. Francis High sophomore soccer player Mark Verso, it meant hitting the weight room with the goal of improving his conditioning so he could be a constant threat between the lines for the Golden Knights. It worked quite well for the forward.

"I didn't see the results last year, but I did practice hard," said Verso, who was named the All-Mission League Offensive Player of the Year following a 22-goal season. "I started to work out hard and the added strength and size started to show and that helped me get to more balls from which I got real good passes from my teammates.

"I wanted to help us win a league championship, but this is a great achievement and honor."

Verso, who also contributed six assists for 50 total points, was one seven Golden Knights to earn all-league accolades. Thomas Banks, Jake LaPorte and Sean Fitzpatrick were selected to the first team. Jeff Quezada, Derek Bell and Eric Bocanegra secured second-team honors, as voted on by the league's seven coaches.

St. Francis finished 15-10, 9-3 in league for second place behind Loyola. It advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division I quarterfinals under Coach Glen Appels.

Appels, who has had his share of players through the years pick up all-league honors, said Verso brought the Golden Knights an added offensive dimension.

"What he was able to do was quite an accomplishment," Appels said. "He worked hard in the offseason to improve his game.

"He went out there and found ways to score and he's got that physical presence and he can dominate. He's well deserving of the award."

LaPorte and Fitzpatrick proved to be worthy defenders for the Golden Knights, who contended for the league crown until the final week of the season. The Golden Knights finished with five shutouts, including four in league.

Banks, a junior midfielder, collected four assists. LaPorte and Fitzpatrick, both seniors, each had one assist.

"Thomas was our most consistent guy and you always knew what kind of effort you were going to get from him," Appels said. "He kept the midfield together and he added some offense for us.

"Jake is definitely not your prototypical defender. He's not big, but he uses his quickness so well. He knows what needs to be done.

"Sean went out there and did a good job of marking the best players from the other teams. He's got that physical presence and he was able to help out our offense."

Though Quezada, a freshman center back, didn't have any goals or assists, Appels said he had little difficulty making a smooth transition to the high school level.

"We knew how good he could be in one-on-one situations," Appels said. "He's not big, but he understands the technique and he can be a leader for us next year."

Bell, a junior midfielder, provided some timely offense throughout the season for the Golden Knights. Bell finished with two goals and nine assists.

"He's got that way of crossing the ball so well and he can compete physically," Appels said. "Those things were huge for us."

Bocanegra, a junior midfielder, also contributed plenty to the St. Francis attack. He registered one goal and eight assists.

"He's extremely quick and he's got a lot of skills," Appels said. "He's a fantastic crosser and he's one of the best for us to serve the ball up to Eric and Mark Verso."

Andre Brown of Loyola was named the league's most valuable player. Chaminade's Nick Uzunyan was tabbed the league's defensive player of the year and Marino Bianchi of Crespi was named the league's most valuable goalkeeper.

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