McConnellsburg boys soccer coach Cory Houck doesn't mince words when he's talking about Jake Boehme, his star midfielder for the past two seasons.

"A player like him only comes around once in a while," Houck said. "I've never seen a kid with a drive like he has."

A lot of that inner drive was probably already in Boehme (pronounced like "foam"), but it was crystallized following an injury.

Boehme said, "I had eye surgery and sat out my whole 10th-grade year. That was not something I wanted to do, so I've worked as hard as I could to help get that year back."

That, of course, is impossible. But Boehme has made the best of it in his final two years with the Spartans, leading them to a two-year record of 33-6, and he has been named the Public Opinion Player of the Year.

Even while playing midfield, Boehme led the area in points, finding the back of the net 36 times and assisting on another 22 goals for McConnellsburg.

Houck said, "It was awful tempting to put him at striker, but he was able to control the midfield, and he also got his goals from there. His vision is probably his best asset -- he knows how to create space for other players. His footwork was excellent. He's not the fastest player out there, but he does have quick feet."

It also helped having a dangerous striker in front of him (Patrick Keefer, 29 goals) and a good supporting cast around him.

Boehme said, "We tried to be more of a possession team, playing it back and then working it up the field. It helped spread out some teams and get them out of their comfort zone."

The Spartans were not out of their comfort zone very often, winning their first 11 games before Fannett-Metal knocked them off, then winning seven more until falling in the District 5 Class A semifinals to Berlin.

"I was pleased with the season we had, but I wanted us to get some kind of medal," Boehme said. "I hope we put McConnellsburg back on the map as a threat. But that last game was tough. We gave up a quick goal and I think that was the first time we'd been down early all season. We were like, 'Oh, wow.' And then they scored two more back-to-back.

"We out-shot them 22-9, but we couldn't hit the net. It just happened at the wrong time."

Until then, the Spartans had it rolling. And a lot of that has to do with the work Boehme and his teammates put in before the season started.

Houck said, "Jake was doing something to make himself better almost every day, either lifting weights or playing pickup games at the Lions Club field. He'd send texts out to the whole team, and if they had an even number they'd play six-on-six or whatever. If they needed somebody, Jake would text the coaches."

Boehme believes those sessions were priceless.

"It definitely helped the team chemistry," he said. "It gave the freshman a feel for how we play, and it established a leadership on the team. We were trying to get a higher level of technical ability, so we'd do shooting and scrimmaging and I'd try to give out some tips."

He was also learning new tips while visiting clinics at various college campuses, things like how to turn with the ball, and how to play faster -- "A lot of little things that college scouts look for," Boehme said.

It must have worked. Boehme said schools like Lock Haven and St. Francis have shown interest, and while he hasn't officially committed yet, he believes he's going to decide to play for Division I St. Francis.

The drive that got him this far in his career will come in handy when he moves to the next level.

Jake Boehme file

Grade: Senior

Position: Midfield

Parents: John and Christy Boehme

Interests: He plays basketball for the Spartans and plays on a club soccer team in Chambersburg.

Surprising fact: In his spare time, Boehme likes to lift weights.

Favorite team: Barcelona

Favorite player: Cristiano Ronaldo

Statistics: Boehme notched 36 goals and added 22 goals this season, edging F-M's Mikell McGee by 2 for the most points in the area ... For his career, he scored 61 goals and had 33 assists ... He was named a Sideling Hill League all-star.

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