Cole Howard has long stood above the competition on the soccer field. The 6-foot-6 Skyview High senior has been the tallest player on his team for as long as he can remember.
But this spring, Howard raised his game to another level. He scored eight goals and assisted on 10 others. His accuracy on long throw-ins and longer free kicks was instrumental in the Storm's unprecedented success. So was his ability to clean up danger on defense, either by out-running an attacker or by winning a battle in the air.
Howard's maturation into a complete player was a significant reason Skyview won the Class 4A state championship this spring. For his role in that success, Howard is The Columbian's choice as the boys soccer All-Region player of the year.
"Being 6-6, he's always been a presence," Skyview coach Jenn Johnson said. "I think a lot of people underestimate his agility."
That agility improved this season, Howard and Johnson both said, because he developed a passion for working out. Plyometric workouts improved his athletic ability and weight training added 25 pounds of muscle. The result was a player who couldn't be knocked around by opponents with lower centers of gravity, a defender who was difficult do defeat one on one.
In the state semifinals, a long throw-in from Howard set up a goal. An accurate 60-yard free kick resulted in a goal in the championship match. But Howard's importance was never more obvious than when he left the field with a shin bruise late in the state finals. Soon after he hobbled to the sideline, Central Kitsap scored a goal that cut Skyview's lead to 3-2. Howard returned then, helping Skyview turn back a late push from the favored Wildcats.
Howard certainly didn't do that alone.
"We had amazing team chemistry this season," he said. "We didn't have any star players."
Like their central defender, the Storm were underestimated entering the playoffs. Central Kitsap was ranked No. 2 entering the playoffs by the Seattle Times. Skyview wasn't ranked at all. Howard said the rankings played to Skyview's advantage because it motivated the Storm while opponents overlooked them.
"That was a huge thing," Howard said.
At season's end, no one stood taller than Howard and his teammates.
• Assisted on the winning goal, taking a free kick from 60 yards that was headed into the goal by Austin Horner, in Skyview’s 3-2 win in the Class 4A state final.
• Had 8 goals and 14 assists on the season, including a goal and 3 assists in 4 state playoff wins.
• A first-team 4A GSHL all-leaguer for the first time.
More about Cole
• Cole credits Mountain View soccer coach Jeff Brooks, who for several seasons coached the club team Howard played for, with teaching him the technique for his long throw-ins.
• Now 6-foot-6, Cole has played recreation basketball. Despite always being tall, he was never as successful at hoops as at soccer.
• Favorite movies: Comedies. Cole has seen “The Hangover” seven or eight times.
• Cole started strength and agility training a year ago, gained 25 pounds and came to enjoy regular workouts.
Next year and beyond
• Cole plans to play college soccer for St. John’s University, a NCAA Division III school in central Minnesota.
“(Roosevelt) was probably the best team that we played. That’s when I knew that we could win it all.”
— Cole Howard on how the 4-1 win in the first round of state propelled the Storm to the state title.
Rest of All-Region team
• Adam Allison, sr., Camas: Forward had 12 goals and team-high 11 assists.
• Brandon Brooks, sr., Mountain View: First-team 3A GSHL midfielder helped Thunder to final four.
• Wyatt Brown, sr., Camas: 3A GSHL defensive player of the year also scored 12 goals.
• Ngawang Choephel, sr., Mtn. View: First-team 3A GSHL midfielder was key playoff contributor.
• Tanner Konkright, jr., Ridgefield: Team MVP helped Spudders to 1A state semifinals.
• Collin Partee, so., Union: First-team 4A GSHL goalkeeper helped Titans to the league title.
• Sean Powell, sr., Seton Catholic: Selected as the 1A Trico League player of the year.
• Sean Price, sr., Skyview: First-team 4A GSHL; leader in midfield for 4A state champions.
• Langdon Roscoe, sr., Hockinson: Midfielder was selected as the MVP of the Class 2A GSHL.
• Igor Shapoval, sr., Prairie: Forward was honored as the 3A GSHL offensive MVP.
• Timur Zhividze, jr., Evergreen: Class 4A GSHL MVP scored 14 goals and had 21 assists.