Two Soccer Stars Named To All-State Second Team

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Payson High School boys soccer team standouts Branden Peters and Karri Liikkanen have been named to the All-State second team and seven others have received All-Conference honors.

The All-State honors are determined by a vote from coaches throughout the 1A through 3A conference soccer programs. Despite the fact their season wrapped up a few months ago, the news just hit Payson.

"The lady that put all the data together got sick and just got the information to me last week," soccer coach Byron Quinlan said.

Rim Region All-Conference selections have also become official with first-team honors going to Peters and Liikkanen, both of whom played forward for the Longhorns this season.

Second-team honors went to PHS defender Tyson McKee and goalie Nick Sanders. Honorable mention designations were also extended to defender Zack McQuain and mid-fielders Jonas Neilsen and Travis Sanders. Quinlan said these players truly earned their honors.

"Peters was one of our more physical players and all the coaches at the All-State selection meetings knew this just because of the style of soccer he played" he said. "Karri (an exchange student from Finland) was our finesse player. He had great ball-handling skills and did a lot of our scoring."

While the Longhorns exuded talent this year, fans can take heart that many of the star players will be returning next year.

"Tyson McKee was one of our leaders out on the soccer field. It was basically his first year playing soccer, but he was just real gung ho and became one of the real leaders," Quinlan said. "He had only one speed and that was fifth gear, full blast."

Nick Sanders filled the Longhorn goalie position this year. Quinlan said look for him to be a dominating force next year.

"He has a lot of potential to be a great goalie and really proved himself this year," the coach said. "He'll be a senior next year and should be receiving a lot of recognition for his efforts."

The Horns proved themselves an emotional team this year, which carried them through some very tough games. Quinlan said that emotional push was thanks in part to Zack McQuain.

"He was an emotional leader and kind of like having a coach out on the field," Quinlan said. "He worked the defensive side of the game and had a lot of younger guys he had to help teach and he's just a great all-around kid, too."

Versatility is the key ingredient for success on the soccer field, and the Longhorns had a number of players able to step into a variety of roles, including Jonas Neilsen.

"He's kind of our versatility guy because he could play a lot of positions, and so we used him all over the place," Quinlan said.

One of two brothers on the team, the coach said, Travis Sanders is a player who will undoubtedly become a key to future success.

"He's only a sophomore and he did a lot of things for us," he said. "I think he has the most talent to develop into a really strong player."

Despite a less than stellar season overall for the Longhorns, Quinlan said these players and their selection for honors by opposing coaches is a testament to Payson's growing soccer talent.

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