FORTVILLE — Analyzing Josh Powell’s sophomore and junior soccer campaigns would be like comparing night and day — the two simply do not match.
Powell, a junior goalkeeper for Mt. Vernon, played in just eight games his entire sophomore season. But after being thrust into the starting lineup this year, Powell’s role on the team saw a significant increase, as did his minutes.
So how did the 6-foot-1, lanky keeper respond? By putting together the best season of his life — maybe in program history — notching 11 shutouts and 204 saves (third in state) while only allowing 14 goals for the 16-3-1 Marauders.
Those numbers put Powell ahead of a very talented Hancock County field, giving him the title of Daily Reporter Boys Soccer Players of the Year.
“If someone had asked me who I thought would win this award, I’d not be able to pick just one, there are that many talented people,” Powell said. “I think that helps drive everyone to get better and compete on this high level.
“Practice makes perfect, and I tried to take advantage of every opportunity to train (in the offseason) that I could to better myself for our team.”
Powell’s important shutout, however, came against county and conference rival New Palestine in the sectional final, a 3-0 win.
It was the Marauders first boys soccer sectional championship since 2012.
“Being able to stand next to my 21 brothers and hold up that sectional trophy is something I’ll always remember,” Powell said.
But going from a spot substitute to one of the state’s most intriguing goalkeeping prospects in one year’s time takes more than hard work. Mt. Vernon head coach Matt Mayhew said Powell’s mixture of size, anticipation rate and reaction time make him the dominating force he is. But more importantly, the junior has drive.
“(He has) the desire to be the best at his position,” Mayhew said. “He works nonstop by attending camps, light weights, et cetera. (It’s) well deserved for the time he spent the past couple seasons to get ready to fill that starter role.
“And he has great character; he works with younger keepers in club.”
Powell, who sports a 3.65 grade point average, recorded his 11th and final shutout in the regional opener as the Marauders topped Perry Meridian 2-0. A highly skilled and state-ranked Center Grove squad, which eventually won the state title, ended Mt. Vernon’s season, though, 4-1 in the regional championship.
Center Grove head coach Jameson McLaughlin said Powell was one of the best keepers his team had faced all season, which was probably a reoccurring thought for opposing teams. He recorded an eye-catching 21 saves in the loss.
“Hey, if we had to lose to somebody, I’m glad it was the state champions,” Powell joked.
On a serious note, college coaches are starting to pay attention. It would be hard to top a season like this one for Powell, but with his work ethic and natural ability, it would be unwise to rule anything out. He already knows what will make him more valuable.
“I have talked to a couple coaches,” Powell said. “I’m really just starting to see what my possibilities to play at the next level are, but I know I would love to play in college.
“I think I can try and be a better leader for both my teammates and the younger guys because someday they’ll be right where we are now, and it’s our job to prepare them for that.”
What a turnaround in a mere 365 days.
Powell recorded a season-high 25 saves in a 5-1 win against Columbus East on Sept. 19 and notched double digits stops in seven contests. Even more impressive, his season-high, prior to the Center Grove game, in goals allowed in one game was two, which happened only twice all season.
Against state-ranked Fishers, Powell tallied 15 saves in a 1-0 upset. He even recorded an assist against Beech Grove.
The humble Powell gives most the credit to his teammates, though, four of who joined him on the all-county first team.
“I want to thank my team, coaches, parents and older brother for always driving me to be my best,” Powell said. “I wouldn’t have had this success without them.”
Despite the loss of five seniors, the Marauders will look to defend its sectional championship next season with the return of over half of its starting lineup, including leading scorers Carson Jones and Timmy Clone.
And it’s safe to say the defense — with Powell — should be just fine.