Spartans have it in Bagramyan

There was never any secret about who the La Cañada High boys' soccer team wanted to get the ball to.

Armand Bagramyan, the Spartans' lethal forward, was usually the one La Cañada looked to for a goal and as a result he drew two and the occassional third defender.

No matter what the opposing defenses threw his way, Bagramyan was often able to find a way to score, as he tallied 23 of La Cañada's 52 goals and assisted on 15 more.

"We had a scorer we could go to at any moment," first-year La Cañada Coach Alex Harrison said of Bagramyan. "He is just really elusive and puts people on their heels. Once he gets past you and gets an open look, eight or nine times of 10 he is going to stick it in the net."

It was Bagramyan's play-making ability that helped him lead the Rio Hondo League in goals — with 11 in 10 league games – and propel the Spartans (14-6-5, 6-0-4 in league) to their third straight league crown and earned him the league's most valuable offensive player award.

"I was actually pretty nervous coming in because I didn't think I would do as well with all the guys who graduated last year," Bagramyan said. "I was expecting it to be a team game, but I had a lot to do. I had to be a leader and a captain, which I haven't been before. I didn't actually expect to score as much as I did."

The Spartans' next goal and assist leader was Jeff Becker, who finished with eight goals and 13 assists and picked up all-league first-team honors.

"[Becker] has great size, speed, technical ability and he can finish," Harrison said of the senior. "He has the skills you look for as a forward or midfielder."

Zaki Khan also got a first-team nod, more so for his defensive prowess and senior leadership in La Cañada's midfield while also posting three goals and two assists.

"[Khan] held the team together through the emmotional aspect, he was really our general on the field," Harrison said.

If an opposing player worked his way to the Spartans backline he was most likely going to run into their junior center back, Aidan Tourani, who was also selected to Rio Hondo's first team.

"He was the leader in the back," Harrison said of Tourani. "He is a hard tackler and that's important to have in the back."

South Pasadena (15-9-2, 6-2-2) finished third in league behind Monrovia and wound up with three first-teamers in seniors Steven Blackwell, Mathewos Ghebrekristos and Cody Dunn.

Ghebrekristos posted a team-high eight goals and 11 assists, while Dunn scored seven times and added nine assists.

"Mathewos was actually my MVP," South Pasadena Coach Juan Zurita said. "He was always very mature in the field and was never that big, but he has always been intense and a gamer. … [Dunn's] experience made him a top player and this was probably his best year on varsity."

Blackwell anchored the Tigers' backline, while also scoring four goals and notching an assist when he was moved up to midfield, despite playing through a lingering injury most of the season.

"He played the whole second half of the season with an injured ankle, but he never stopped," Zurita said. "He was always there giving me 100%. He was one of the best defenders in the league."

Danny Miguel Coello, a senior midfielder, and Carlos Linares, a sophomore forward, were selected to the first team from fourth-place Blair (6-11-2, 4-6).

"[Coello] came onto the team and brought great vision, ball-handling skills and some scoring, but the biggest thing was his ability to see the game," Vikings Coach Henry Cabral said. "He is really crafty and doesn't beat them with speed or strength, but his craftiness."

The future is still bright for Linares as it's the second year in a row the sophomore has been selected to the first team.

"It's rare to see a ninth grader or 10th grader on the first team," Cabral said. "He is a skillful, small player, but plays bigger than anyone else on the field."

The area's final first-team pick was San Marino senior defender John Silk.

The Titans finished fifth in league with a 6-8-2 (1-6-2) record.

Blair's Pedro Benitez, South Pas' Charlie Slocum (two goals, one assist) and La Cañada's Garrett Apel (two goals, five assists) earned second-team honors as defenders.

Ricardo Patlan from San Marino, the Spartans' Armaan Zare (four goals, two assists) and the Tigers' Zachary Dunn (five goals, 12 assists) — Cody's brother — picked up second-team nods out of the midfield as the Titans' Manuel Vargas and Jeff Osgood were the remaining second-teamers at forward and goalie, respectively.

Jack Basalari and Liam Moravec from San Marino were both honorable mentions in league, along with Blair's Lukeba Massamba, Salvador Rivera, La Cañada's Noah Duncan, Carlos Ruano (one goal, four assists) and South Pasadena's Max White and Raymond Yonami (three goals, two assists).

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