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ALL-AREA BOYS SOCCER: Live Oak's Araujo is Player of the Year
Lions' senior captain takes top honor
It took Armando Araujo a few years to understand what was so amusing about chasing a round ball for 80 minutes.
Soccer, or futbol as it is better known in his native country of Mexico, never had the same kind of pull on Araujo as the rest of his family.
The Araujos immigrated to Live Oak when he was 5 and it wasn't until about age 10 that he finally decided to join in on his family's weekly tradition of playing soccer at the local park.
His father, Armando, Sr., his uncles, his cousins, everybody else was infatuated with the sport. It required some coaxing from those people to convince Araujo to participate.
"At first, I just wasn't really into it," Araujo said. "I just thought, 'Why are you guys chasing that ball around?' It definitely took me awhile."
Thankfully for the Live Oak High soccer program, Araujo's passion for soccer only grew.
The Lions' senior left midfielder scored 24 goals this season in leading his team to the Northern Section Division II title game and a Sacramento Valley League-I championship.
A multi-faceted player with skills on both offense and defense, Live Oak's captain for the past two years is the Appeal-Democrat's 2011-12 All-Area Player of the Year.
He was a first team All-Area selection last year and named to the All-SVL-I squad the last two seasons.
Filling the shoes of Hector Cibrian, last season's All-Area Player of the Year, as Live Oak's top scorer was a daunting task for Araujo.
At left mid, Araujo not only had the responsibilities of being an elite scorer, he was also depended on to be a solid defender.
"Playing midfield is hard because you have to help out on everything," Araujo said. "It's a lot of running and a lot of work."
It's ironic that Araujo would accept the torch passed down by Cibrian as the two were bitter rivals in middle school.
A grade apart from each other, Araujo and Cibrian were the top soccer players in their respective classes and formed a competitive relationship.
"We just hated each other at first," Araujo said. "Our friends would egg us on and we would just end up fighting.
"He's a great player, one of the best I've seen."
The two became close as teammates in high school and helped turn Live Oak soccer into one of the top programs in the section.
Coming into his comfort zone was a four-year process for Araujo. He started out as a timid freshman, but by his junior year was named team captain by coach Mike Owen.
Soccer is now a year-round commitment for Araujo, who competes in local Mexican and indoor leagues. Next year he plans on attending Butte College where he hopes to earn a spot on the Roadrunners' soccer squad.
His experience with the Lions' soccer team was enhanced through the friendships he made with players such as Ricky Caratachea, Edgar Diaz and Pedro Valenica.
Valenica, a first team All-Area pick this year, was one of the Lions' center midfielders
and said he could always rely on Araujo on the field.
"He was the go-to guy this year," Valencia said. "He meant a lot to us since we lost Hector. Armando is a great player."
Owen labeled Araujo as a model student-athlete.
Not only is he an asset on the pitch, he sets an example for other classmates as an excellent student.
"He's someone the kids look to follow," Owen said. "It's a good example of a kid who worked really, really hard. He shows that nothing comes easy and, if you work hard, good things are going to happen for you."
Araujo is grateful for what soccer had done for his life.
He said it made him a better student and person. He's ready for the next part of his journey and hopes he can utilize soccer as a means to a higher education.
It's been seven years since his dad convinced him to kick a ball into a net — he's thankful for it every day.
"Soccer's my life," Araujo said. "I wouldn't trade anything for this."
Thomas Mehler, junior, Marysville
The Indians' speedster scored 17 goals this season to lead Marysville and was an All-Golden Empire League selection.
Coach Steve Tennis said Mehler was a spark plug on the offensive end for the Indians and should be an anchor once again this fall.
Spencer Iskikian, senior, Faith Christian
The Lions' all-time scoring leader capped off a brilliant prep career this past fall.
Iskikian ended his four-year tenure with the Lions with 105 goals and this season found the back of the net 35 times.
He was a four-time All-Sacramento Metropolitan Athletic League selection and this is Iskikian's second consecutive season on the A-D's All-Area squad.
Skylar Ripley, senior, Faith Christian
An all-around talent, Ripley anchored the Lions' midfield this season, doing just about anything asked of him.
He had the ability to score (19 goals), though had no problem setting up his teammates with a team-high 31 assists. Ripley led Faith in assists in each of the past three seasons.
Ripley was also a standout on the defensive end. Next year, he'll be playing for Biola University in La Mirada.
He was also a three-time All-SMAL selection and was voted the team's MVP.
Sam Ruxton, senior, Sutter
Ruxton scored a team-high 18 goals for the Huskies this season with five assists.
A versatile athlete, Ruxton is also Sutter's No. 1 tennis player.
He was an All-Butte View League pick and is headed up to Simpson University in Redding next year to continue his soccer career.
Shaanjit Johal, senior, Yuba City
Johal anchored Yuba City's midfield this season and was an All-Tri County Conference pick for the conference-champion Honkers.
Coach Sean Nelson said Johal's passing ability and contributions on the defensive end were key for the Honkers.
Castulo Carvajal, junior, River Valley
Carvajal was the "nucleus of the team" according to R.V. coach Abel Franco.
He controlled the midfield for the Falcons where he was a "defensive wall" and a superb passer on the offensive end.
Despite suffering a separated shoulder this year, the Falcons' captain was selected to the All-TCC squad.
"He knows the game and he's a natural," Franco said. "He was our leader."
Pedro Valencia, junior, Live Oak
Valencia was selected as Offensive MVP of the SVL-I this season after scoring 11 goals and making 24 assists for the Lions.
As the Lions' center midfielder, Valencia controlled the offense and was vital to his team's run to the Northern Section Division II title game.
Franklin Tarke, sophomore, Sutter
The youngest member of the A-D's All-Area squad, Tarke was voted his team's MVP as a sophomore.
He was a wall on the Huskies' back line with 176 steals this season.
Ernesto Orozco, junior, Gridley
Orozco led the Bulldogs with 163 steals this season and was voted his team's MVP.
He was an All-BVL pick and Gridley's team captain.
Although he is a gifted goal scorer, Orozco sacrificed his offensive numbers to help out on the defensive end, said coach Jesse Barajas.
MJ Serda, senior, Yuba City
Yuba City's defense only surrendered two goals to opponents in three of the team's 23 matches this year.
One of the main reasons why was the play of Serda, who was an All-TCC pick.
Nelson said Serda's presence on the back line was a big factor in the team's undefeated mark in TCC play this season.
Ben Anderson, senior, Yuba City
Anderson was voted the TCC's Defensive MVP and was a huge contributor to the Honkers' aforementioned success on defense.
His length and quickness made him the top keeper in the Mid-Valley area. Anderson only allowed six goals this season to go with five shutouts.
He will be attending Chico State in the fall where he is garnering interest from the soccer program.