FORTVILLE — Sometimes in sports it’s not the player that chooses the position, it’s the position that chooses the player.
Insert Josh Powell, the Mt. Vernon junior goalkeeper who has led the Marauders soccer team to a 9-2 start, recording seven shutouts and allowing only five goals all season.
Powell stands 6-foot-1 and is still growing. Like most kids, he began his soccer career at the youth level, with family ties to the sport. However, the long and lanky blond was noticeably taller than nearly all his teammates.
And where do coaches put the tallest kid in youth soccer? In goal.
Story continues below gallery
“I started playing goalkeeper because I was kind of tall for my age,” said Powell, who began playing soccer for Sporting Indiana’s travel team at age 9. “(The coach) said, ‘We’re going to throw you in there and see how you do.’ … I ended up kind of liking it.”
And he’s been there ever since.
But not like this. Never with such skill and leadership. It’s something he’s grown into, just like his frame.
Powell’s father stands 6-4, and doctors have indicated Josh could come close to that height, too.
“That would be perfectly fine for me,” Powell said. “I don’t want to get too tall. The goal is only so tall. Plus, I already have a 6-3 wingspan.”
Powell fell in love with the sport after watching older brothers, Matt, who plays soccer at Franklin College, and Ben, play for Mt. Vernon. He’s always wanted to be a Marauder.
“Watching my two older brothers made me want to develop,” he added. “I wanted to be able to play with them. I realized at young age that I was definitely better at soccer (than other sports).
“That became my primary focus.”
And focus he did. Had Powell not had the productive summer he did, playing for various travel and club teams, another teammate might have started as Mt. Vernon’s keeper.
In a decision that undoubtedly benefited the team, and both players involved, Marauders head coach Matt Mayhew decided to move 2014 starting goalkeeper Luke Yeadon, a senior, to midfield.
In place, Powell, who played strictly junior varsity in 2014, would get the nod in goal. The results speak for themselves. Yeadon ranks third on the team in goals (6) and second in assists (4) while Powell has recorded 97 saves (8.8 per game), with five games left in the regular season.
“Josh really, really worked over the summer. He made the ODP (Olympic Development Program) select team,” Mayhew said. “Luke, knowing we needed an offensive player, which he’s played in club, said, ‘Hey I know Josh is a little younger and taller,’ and stuff like that. And Luke thought he could handle some of the offensive load.
“He (Yeadon) was able to slide into a different role we needed, and it’s worked out pretty well for us this season. And that’s a credit to Luke’s work ethic, as well.”
Not to mention, the Marauders, who received an honorable mention in this week’s Class 2A coaches poll, sit near the top of the Hoosier Heritage Conference standings (4-1) behind New Palestine (4-0), one of the two schools to beat Mt. Vernon this season (penalty kicks).
At this point in 2014, the Marauders were 7-4 and lost their final five matches. Powell and the new-look squad — that only returned three players in the same positions as last year — may have something to say about that. But what about Powell, other than his size, made Mayhew decide to make the switch?
“I think it’s his natural instincts and his natural reactions to move and get the ball,” Mayhew said. “He does see the field very well. His experience in the offseason and playing against high- quality teams (has helped).”
Yeadon echoed coach Mayhew’s thoughts and said what makes Powell special is his communication skills on the field.
“The thing about Josh is he’s very active,” he said. “I wasn’t able to communicate like he does. But I think I just bring something different to the midfield. I may not be the fastest out there, but I control the game in a different way than some of our other players do.
“I kind of like the field, and I knew if we kept him in goal we would be fine this year. I guess I have a purpose there.”
Powell has been working on his communication for a while now. It is the No. 1 skill Mayhew constantly encourages his keeper to possess.
“If you can talk to your team well enough and direct them, you won’t have to touch the ball the entire the game,” Powell said. “I am happy after the game if I’ve been bored. That means my team is doing well.”
Powell ranks in the top five in the state in saves (fourth), according to maxpreps.com, and has begun to draw the attention of college coaches.
“I am trying to play at the collegiate level,” Powell said. “I’ve had a few (coaches) come to my games. I’ve been talking to the Rose-Hulman coach, and I contacted the IUPUI coach. My mom works there, so I would get half-tuition.”
But the junior still has a whole season to worry about the college ranks. The most immediate task is taking care of the HHC and preparing for sectional play.
The Marauders could have a rematch waiting for them when the Greenfield-Central Sectional draw is announced. In last year’s sectional, the Dragons topped the Marauders 5-1.
Yeadon said the first contest with New Palestine this season did not go as planned.
“We didn’t play to our potential like we did against Fishers (1-0 win) the game before that,” Yeadon said. “I think we didn’t possess the ball very well and forced some things.”
Those things can be corrected, though. And the closeness of the team, according to Powell, will be beneficial come tournament time.
“We work as a team,” he said. “We’re all friends with each other and can tell each other what to do. We can tell each other what we’ve done wrong and fix that.”
And that all starts with Powell.
Mt. Vernon will head to Pendleton Heights for its final conference game Sept. 24 before sectional action opens up the next week.
Josh Powell, Mt. Vernon junior goalkeeper
Favorite food? Wheels and cheese
Favorite soccer player? Tim Howard
Favorite team besides soccer? Indianapolis Colts
Biggest inspiration? Matt Mayhew and parents
Funniest kid on team? Matt Schafer
Plan to study in college? Software engineering
Dream job? Network manager