NCS Junior of the Year
ZACK BATCHELDER, MONTGOMERY
The best player on arguably the second-best team in the section doesn’t stand out before the game. Montgomery junior Zack Batchelder certainly is not the biggest player on the pitch, but once the whistle blows, there is no doubting the impact he has and the heights to which he has lifted his program.
“Zack stays under the radar a bit, as he is not the biggest or strongest kid in the world, but he’s slippery, has good speed in the open field, and has a special knack for finishing,” said Montgomery coach Jon Schwan. “He’s also just so incredibly humble and hard-working. He’s a natural athlete and loves the game, but he’s also the soccer equivalent of a gym rat.”
Coming into this season, Batchelder’s personal goal was to average one goal scored per game. He exceeded that, scoring 32 goals to go with 12 assists, in just 24 games. He did not play on a home field one time this year, after Montgomery’s field was deemed unplayable prior to the season, so every time out he also adjusted to a new environment. Along the way, he led the Vikings to a 21-1-2 overall mark, including an unbeaten run in the NBL-Oak Division and a march to the NCS Division II title, defeating Richmond in the title game.
“He created both those goals against Richmond,” Schwan added, referring to the 2-1 victory for the section championship. “He’s just so quick, and can beat almost anyone in close quarters. He also knows how to play the right ball at the right time.”
Montgomery’s season ended with a loss to NCS Division I champion Berkeley, after the Vikings were elevated to Division I for the CIF NorCal Championships. By then, Batchelder was a known commodity to the opposing Yellowjackets. Earlier in the season, in an early January match-up, the teams had tied at three with Batchelder wowing all those in attendance with a highlight reel bicycle kick goal, off a long throw. It was just one more illustration of his ability to score in so many different ways.
As prolific a scorer as Batchelder is, his ability to contribute to his team’s possession was just as crucial. Montgomery owned the ball roughly 75 percent of the time during its games this year, allowing the Vikings to outscore all opponents by a whopping margin of 84-19. Aside from going unbeaten in league play, they also beat Richmond twice (once during the regular season), tied Berkeley during the regular season and also tied NCS Division I semifinalist Vintage during non-league play. The Vikings have now won 44 games over the last two seasons, claimed two straight section crowns and not lost a league game since Feb. 1, 2017. All of it has happened with Batchelder as the key piece of the attack.
“It’s very humbling for me, since I have known Zack back to when he was seven years old, and started coaching him when he was eight,” Schwan said. “It’s just been fantastic to witness his development and not only his success, but our success with him.”
For his efforts throughout this season, we are pleased to recognize Zack Batchelder as the Prep2Prep North Coast Section Junior of the Year.
Other players considered include Newark Memorial’s Jesse Esparza, Antioch’s Ian Scheringer, Concord’s Anthony Fuller and Amador Valley’s Ben Wold.