Nobody was more dependable for the Sonora Wildcats varsity soccer team this year than senior Cameron Armas.
Armas' superior skills on the field throughout the 2012 season translated to 16 total goals and two assists for the Cats, including eight scored during play in the grueling Valley Oak League.
He delivered a clutch game-tying goal that kept the Cats in contention late in a VOL matchup against Lathrop, which Sonora head coach Lloyd Longeway described as a prime example of what Armas has done for the team all season.
"He received the ball right at the top of the box about 18 yards from the goal," recounted Longeway. "Cameron did a nice turn, spun and just took a shot. It wasn't that he just blasted the ball or anything. He placed it right in the corner where the goalie didn't have a chance. It was just such a beautiful goal."
Many coaches in the area also took note of Armas' intelligent play that made him a target for other teams all season long. He was voted to the All-VOL First Team along with teammates Shane Hopper and Andrew Klatt.
"We just respect him," said Summerville head coach Dave Reel. "He's got the skills, so you can't take any unnecessary chances against him. I tell my guys to just respect his skills, be aware of them and know that he'll make you look silly if you don't."
For his outstanding play, clutch goals and leadership displayed throughout the season, Sonora Wildcat senior Cameron Armas is the 2012 Union Democrat All-Area Most Valuable Player.
"That's a big honor," said Armas after being informed of his selection. "Just knowing I helped my team that much feels good. With all these other good players in the league, it's just great to be selected."
"He was like having another coach out on the field," said Longeway. "He would never get down on teammates like some guys can when they are definitely the most skilled player on the field. If he noticed someone could do something better, he would help them out - and they respected him."
Armas, a forward, said he wanted to make an impression this year after being sidelined most of last season with an MCL injury.
Armas has been playing soccer for more than 12 years on several travel teams and for the Olympic Development Program team.
"I just like how competitive it is and how difficult it can be," said Armas. "The other day we played a really easy team but it was difficult for me to score, which shows how hard of a game it really is."
Armas and other Wildcat teammates are currently playing for an Ebbetts Pass-based travel team coached by his father, Paul, and he plans to attend junior college while working his way onto a semi-pro or four-year college team.
Overall, the Wildcats went 12-10-3 and 5-6-3 in the VOL and barely missed the playoffs, finishing a couple of points behind Oakdale.
Armas said his favorite memory of the season was beating the arch-rival Mustangs in a 5-1 rout.
"They're a tough team and to beat them 5-1 is a good way to go out," said Armas. "But I wouldn't have any goals unless I had teammates passing to me so well," he said. "Our team this year just played well as a unit."
Wildcat goalie Andrew Klatt, sweeper Shane Hopper and midfielder Scott Liggett were selected to the 2012 All-Area First Team.
Hopper has been playing with or against Armas since both were 10 and believes the friendly competition over the years elevated their level of play.
"I think he's rightfully named MVP," Hopper said. "He's dedicated to the sport and has been playing all his life. He puts a lot of time into it and I think he's great for this award."
Armas also recognized other players in the area named to the First Team who gave him trouble throughout the season.
"Mitchell Rudd (Bret Harte goalie), his diving is some of the best I've seen," Armas noted. "Any shot into the corners, he gets them somehow."
Bullfrog senior Frederico Medrano and Jose Torres also made the First Team for Bret Harte.
The Bullfrogs ultimately went 9-4-2 this season, advancing to the first-round of the 2012 Sac-Joaquin Section Divison IV Championships.
Making the first team for the Calaveras Redskins were midfielder David Rodriguez and defender Ryan Castro.
"(Rodriguez) is tall, fast and highly creative on the ball," said Calaveras head coach Colleen "Coco" Kelly. "It's very hard to stay with him because he has such excellent footwork. We put a lot of the weight on his shoulders and he took it."
"Castro's a firecracker," Kelly continued. "He's not a tall player, but what he lacks in height he makes up for by just being a threatening defender. Once he gets the ball near him, he can disrupt the play and steal it. He's absolutely a bulldog."
Meanwhile, earning All-Area First Team honors for the Summerville Bears were Brandon Reel, Gabe Zubek, Raymond Baker and Braden Anderson.
The Bears went 7-7-1 in the MLL this season, good for third place, and advanced to the first-round of the Sac-Joaquin Section Division IV Championships.
Longeway said he told his Cats to keep their eyes on Reel when the teams met in an early preseason matchup that resulted in a 2-0 Sonora victory.
"He's the guy that's going to make you pay for it if you slip up and don't guard him," Longeway said of the Summerville midfielder.
Reel didn't get to play last season due to injury but led the Bears in 2012 with eight goals and seven assists. He is the son of head coach Dave Reel.
"To see them work as hard they have and take it as seriously as they do, I'm very honored and proud to see them be a part of this," said the elder Reel. "And I'm proud of our entire area and the other guys whomade the team. Everyone is deserving."