Panthers, Rebels nab league honors

There isn't a much better way Benoy Menon could have ended his high school career with the Pasadena Poly boys' soccer team.

The senior was voted Prep League Most Valuable Offensive Player and was also named an All-CIF Southern Section Division VI first-team selection.

Both honors came as a surprise to Menon, a midfielder who helped the Panthers (11-7-3) take second in league this season with a 6-2 record.

"It was nice to win the award, but I wasn't really expecting it," Menon said. "It's really an honor to get it as a senior."

Menon scored five times this season, while also tallying eight assists.

"He was one of our most dangerous players and he took on a lot of responsibility for us," Poly Coach Doug Jolly said. "His presence on the ball was the biggest thing, whether he was attacking or setting people up, his creativity, composure and ability really stood out."

Three other Panthers — Ali Kamal, Ian McKnight and Chris Ward — took home all-league first-team honors along with Flintridge Prep's offensive combination of Manuel Perez and Cole Rademacher.

Kamal made everyone take notice in his sophomore campaign, notching seven goals and seven assists, after playing limited minutes as a freshman.

"He was on varsity as a freshman and didn't play a ton or score much," Jolly said of his forward. "This year he grew physically, certainly, and mentally. He is very dangerous setting people up and scoring as well."

McKnight, who is also a sophomore, played sweeper for the defensive-minded Panthers.

"We only gave up like 24 goals this year and he certainly gets a lot of credit for that," Jolly said. "He organizes well and is hard to beat one on one."

Ward anchored Poly's defense in net this year as he posted six shutouts and surrendered those 24 goals in 20 games.

The senior also provided an offensive spark in goal, posting two assists this season and starting a number of other attacks.

"I am putting together our highlight tape and it's surprising how many goals started with Chris," Jolly said. "He has good distribution, is 6-foot-7 and understands the game very well and directs it for us. He is one of our best leaders on the field, as well."

Flintridge Prep's two primary offensive threats this season, Perez and Rademacher, were also recognized with first-team selections after the Rebels (8-7-4, 4-4) took fourth in league.

First-year Prep Coach Mathew Bowden called Perez, a midfielder, one of the most technically gifted on the team and Perez proved that by leading the Rebels in goals this season.

"There's nothing he can't really do," Bowden said of the junior. "He doesn't really need too much coaching because he can beat players, see a pass, make the pass and has a great shot already."

Many of Perez's passes found their way to Rademacher, a sophomore forward with a knack for finishing in the final third.

"[Rademacher] is a great dribbler, he could pick up a pass and in a few seconds he would be in the other team's box," Bowden said. "It was great having a player like that. He was really chosen by the other coaches because most teams we played had to have a game plan against Cole to stop him or slow him down because he was so dangerous."

The Rebels defense was also recognized by the other Prep League coaches, as defenders Kurt Kozacik, a junior, and senior Chris Wirthlin were second-team selections.

The Panthers had three second-team selections in seniors Jack Birkenbeuel (two goals, two assists) and Matt Rossi (seven goals, three assists) and junior Hunter Palmentiero.

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