When 17-year-old Patrick Karlowski hooked up with the United 88's Mesa Soccer Club last fall, he correctly predicted the off-season experience would help him during the winter high school campaign.
After leading the Longhorn boys team to a Grand Canyon Region runner-up finish and its first appearance in the 4A state tournament, Karlowski was named to the All-GCR first team as a stopper.
The honors continued March 6 when the PHS junior learned he had named 4A all-state honorable mention.
Although the all-state teams were announced Sunday, Karlowski didn't learn he had been named until the following day.
"My mom told me about it," he said. "It's a big honor and kind of a reward for all the training ... I've been playing (soccer) since I was 5 years old."
Earning 4A recognition is a huge accomplishment since the conference boasts hundreds of well-schooled, year-round players who annually battle for collegiate scholarships.
"(Karlowski) was one of only 5 percent of the boys that played in the 4A (conference) that was bestowed with the honor," PHS coach Roger Wholly said. "I'm very proud that (his) hard work for the Payson Longhorn has been recognized."
"... I hope that some college see this and the all-state, Patrick is such a great attribute."
Ailing three-year star must decide
Karlowski's postseason recognition is not the first he has earned.
As a freshman, when PHS was in the 3A East region, Karlowski was named all-region second team. Last year, he was honorable mention in the 4A GCR ranks.
Next year, when Payson returns to the 3A East region, Karlowski could potentially become one of the conference's finest and most acknowledged players.
This is one dilemma: In 3A soccer, the sport is played in the fall rather than the winter as it is in the 4A conference.
Playing high school soccer in 3A would result in a scheduling conflict with club ball.
"I couldn't play both," he said. "I'd have to make a decision which one to play. I was learning towards club ball, but now I don't know."
Part of the indecision about his senior year is the result of a knee and leg injury he suffered in the final game of the past season.
"I'm still going to doctors, trying to rehabilitate," he said. "I don't really know what's wrong."
Karlowski's goal last fall was to parlay a successful senior season and a good showing on the club circuit into a college scholarship.
He said he'd eventually like to play at Yavapai College in Prescott where coach Hugh Bell has built a National Junior College Athletic Association soccer dynasty.
Those plans have been put on hold until he recovers from the injury and decides whether to play club or high school soccer.
"It's kind of difficult, because I really don't know what I can and will be able to do," he said.
No matter what lies ahead, Karlowski will go down in school record books as the first PHS soccer player, and possibly the only one, to earn 4A All-State honors.
Since PHS is moving to the 3A ranks next year and 4A is being separated into "big school" and "small school" conferences, it is highly unlikely another Payson player will ever be named "Class 4A All-State."
As important as soccer has been to Karlowski, he is equally as committed to academics.
An honor student at PHS enrolled in AP classes including advanced calculus, he said in college, he would like to major in a computer-related field.