SNOHOMISH – In an alternate reality, he might be a fine wide receiver or a track-scorching sprinter.
But fortunately for the Snohomish High School boys soccer team, Brandon Kelley poured his time and energy into soccer. The results have been indisputably spectacular.
Over the past four years, Kelley, using outstanding speed and surprising strength, went from a gifted freshman with promising skills to the No. 1 goal scorer in Snohomish history. It’s no small feat, considering the number of top-notch athletes who competed for the Panthers, including current collegiate players Taylor Cochran (University of Washington), Brandon Crutchfield (Seattle Pacific University) and Justin Abel (also at SPU).
Kelley’s career goal count (76) tops them all and his assist total (29) ranks high on the program’s all-time leaderboard. The University of San Diego-bound forward elevated his game to previously unseen levels, said Dan Pingrey, Snohomish’s head coach since 1999.
“From just an offensive standpoint, he was the best one that we’ve had,” Pingrey said. “He scored the most goals and is right up there with assists as well, which is huge.”
For putting together another strong season in what was a colossal four-year run, Kelley is The Herald’s 2007 All-Area Boys Soccer Player of the Year. This time, he doesn’t have to split the honor. Kelley shared the award with Crutchfield last season.
Earlier this month Kelley was named the Gatorade 2006-07 Washington State Boys Soccer Player of the Year
Kelley, who scored 22 goals and accumulated seven assists this spring, credited former teammates with helping him improve. He said he feels fortunate to have had a chance to wear a Panthers uniform.
“I was lucky to be in Snohomish,” said Kelley, “because even when I was a freshman, we had some of the best guys in the state. I learned from them and became one of those guys.”
After he helped propel Snohomish to the Class 4A state championship in 2006, Kelley dreamed of capping his career with another title. But the Panthers, who once again achieved lofty status in national polls, ultimately fell short of their goal.
Snohomish’s season ended abruptly in the state quarterfinals with a surprising 1-0 loss against Inglemoor. The Panthers’ offense struggled without Kelley, who did not start the game because of a knee injury and was far from 100 percent when he finally took the field, Pingrey said.
It was a frustrating finish for Snohomish, which was 17-1 and ranked No. 8 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America/adidas poll entering the game. The Panthers fought hard, Pingrey said, but Kelley’s injury, which prevented him from making quick cuts, had a major impact.
“We had been successful at times without him, but playing tough competition and in more intense, emotional situations, you want to have a guy like that on the field,” Pingrey said.
Kelley, who strained the medial collateral ligament in his right knee earlier that week in a first-round victory over Emerald Ridge, gave it a go but was limited. He could barely walk in the days leading up to the game.
“He wanted to be there (at full strength). It was his senior year,” said Pingrey. “You don’t want to go out that way.”
Kelley envisioned a much different end to the season but he kept it all in perspective. “You always have to work hard (but) you don’t always win,” he said.
As a result of his hard work, Kelley developed a skills list that includes extremely quick feet and impressive speed. “He’s a heck of a sprinter. With his speed, he wouldn’t be a bad wide receiver,” Pingrey said.
The dangerous forward also added power to his catalog of strengths and, over the past two seasons, often overpowered defenders en route to scoring a goal.
The trait that really impresses Pingrey, though, is Kelley’s ability to use his talent without becoming self-centered. At times, he played different positions – including a brief goalkeeping stint on senior night – to do whatever the team needed.
Said Pingrey, “(Kelley) didn’t let (his goal-scoring skills) go to his head. … He was definitely a team player and focused on trying to get the job done this year.”