On a chilly March night at McKenzie Stadium, Mountain View’s boys soccer team looked in postseason form, a team destined to be competing deep into May.
Passes pinged from superb midfielder Elijah Thompson to reigning 3A Greater St. Helens League Player of the Year Nathan Purvis, who then delivered a perfect cross to the head of standout striker Christopher Grozav, who powered it into the net. Forget that there weren’t any defenders in this particular drill; it wouldn’t have mattered.
Before coronavirus concerns put the spring sports season on hold, the Thunder were preparing for a run with a team teeming with potential. Coach Dustin Johnson spoke of the squad with guarded optimism, trying not to get too far ahead of himself.
But seeing growth like this in a program isn’t unusual for a Johnson-led squad. Since taking over the Thunder program five years ago, he’s won three league titles and been to two consecutive state tournaments, including last year’s final four appearance, the team’s first since 2012.
In the fall, he joined the Thunder girls as a first-year head coach, leading them to a league title for the first time in decades and their first state quarterfinal appearance since 1997.
“He’s a very friendly guy, loves to communicate with you,” junior Nathan Purvis said. “He pushes us but he’s not over the top hard. He’s just a good coach.”
On the boys side, Johnson’s team is a finely tuned machine. With just two players departing from last year’s squad, the Thunder picked up right where they left off this spring. Those who have been around Johnson know what he expects and they, in turn, demand it from the newcomers.
“We’re fortunate enough to have a really good group of players,” senior Christopher Grozav said. “It’s just continuing that chemistry. It’s my fourth year playing for (Johnson) so nothing is new. We’re only getting closer.”
Johnson attributes some of his success as a Mountain View coach to being a teacher at the school. He teaches history and can communicate with players in the halls on a daily basis.
With school and sports facing an uncertain return in Washington state, Mountain View’s potential standout season will have to wait.
Well before the postponement, Purvis noted the unpredictability of a soccer season. It seems rather fitting now:
“No matter what you have planned, anything can happen,” he said. “Whether it’s the way you want it to or the way you don’t want it to.”