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Panther soccer reaching new heights

Published: Monday, June 16, 2014 1:04 a.m. CDT • Updated: Monday, June 16, 2014 1:12 a.m. CDT
Seniors honored at Saturday's Creston boys soccer team banquet are, from left, Caleb Cramer, Gavin Leith and Levi Eblen. Not pictured, Trevor Frain, Zack Peppmeier and Skylar Cook.

Steady progress.

With more to come.

That was the message at the Creston boys soccer banquet Saturday afternoon in the Creston High School commons.

The 2014 Panthers were 12-5 overall, and their third-place finish in the Hawkeye 10 Conference was the team’s best since a three-way tie for second in 2010.

In three seasons under coach Jesus Rodriguez, the Panthers have followed a 0-13 preceding season with campaigns of 3-11, 9-7 and now 12-5. The Panthers lose four seniors, but six junior lettermen will return as senior leaders in 2015.

“I really enjoyed the season,” Rodriguez said. “Next year the tables will turn a little bit, I believe, because now we’re going to be the team with seniors. It will be a great season. I know it.”

The Panthers lost 2-1 in the substate semifinals to a senior-dominated Glenwood team that captured the Hawkeye 10 championship. Creston was ranked No. 15 in Class 2A at the end of the season. Glenwood, a state qualifier, was ranked No. 5.

The Panthers had their first all-stater under Rodriguez and the program’s first since Kevin Irr in 2010 when Conner Pals was named to the second all-state team in 2A. Pals set a school single-season scoring record with 25 goals, and is the career leader already with 47 goals.

“It boils down to what other coaches see as well, and I congratulate Conner Pals for earning that respect and making second team all-state,” Rodriguez said.

The Panthers lose three senior starters in Trevor Frain, Gavin Leith and Levi Eblen, a midfielder who plans to continue playing at Simpson College. Other seniors on the postseason roster were Caleb Cramer and Zack Peppmeier.

Eblen got the Coach’s Award for his leadership and actions as a role model for younger players. He also had the “Goal of the Year” for his Olympic goal — scoring directly off a corner kick — against Lewis Central.

“Levi was our engine in the midfield,” Rodriguez said. “He was a great leader for us, on the field and in our discussions at halftime. He kept the group very united, always being a motivator.”

Peppmeier received the “Iron Man” award for his dedication despite not having a regular varsity position.

“He was in practice every single day, giving all he’s got,” Rodriguez said. “He knew his role on the team and never complained. No matter what, he was going to challenge players in practice and give his best when he got an opportunity.”

“Newcomer of the Year” was freshman midfielder Ben Irr, who had eight goals, seven assists and 34 shots on goal, which was second only to Pals on the team. Irr was instrumental in Creston’s improved possession game this season.

“Ben was a big part of our success this year,” Rodriguez said.

Creston boys soccer


(Number of letters)

Seniors — Levi Eblen (2), Trevor Frain (2), Gavin Leith (2), Zack Peppmeier (1).

Juniors — Kaleb Cook (2), McClain Haines (2), Brant Hudson (2), Alex Nielsen (2), Conner Pals (2), Tayler Pettit (2).

Sophomores — None.

Freshmen — Ben Irr (1), Chase Shiltz (1), Gavin Woods (1).

Participation awards — Brad Boyer, Caleb Cramer, Trey Cheers, Tyler Helm, Matt Hoffman, Jiovanni Islas, Kyle Jennett, Connor Kinkade, Jake Miller, Patrick Normandeau, Isaac Wignall, Kyle Wynn and Skylar Cook.

Hawkeye 10 All-Academic — Caleb Cramer, Levi Eblen, Zack Peppmeier.

Hawkeye 10 All-Conference — Conner Pals, first team; Tayler Pettit, first team; Trevor Frain, second team; Alex Nielsen, second team; Ben Irr, honorable mention; McClain Haines, honorable mention.

All-state — Conner Pals, second team.

Coach’s Award (leadership, attitude) — Levi Eblen.

Iron Man (dedication) — Zack Peppmeier.

Newcomer of Year — Ben Irr.

Goal of Year — Levi Eblen, Olympic goal (off corner kick) vs. Lewis Central.

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