With a loss at the district semifinals on Jan. 31, the boys’ varsity soccer now has to say goodbye to seven seniors. All brought valuable skills and notable personalities to the team, but none more than Leighton Johnson.
“He was kind of considered the ‘dad’ of the team,” team captain Michael Villanueva (11) said. “He made sure everyone stayed positive and really just took care of us, making sure we were in high spirits going into every game and cheering us up when we made mistakes”.
Villanueva has been Johnson’s teammate for two years but has known him since Villanueva arrived at West Shore.
“Off the field, he’s just an overall great friend,” Villanueva said. “He just has this thing that makes everyone want to be around him.”
Johnson’s passion for the sport was sparked at an early age.
“I started soccer at age four,” Johnson said. “My parents wanted me to do something active and get out of the house. What kept me going was the feeling of a ball between my feet and the excitement of the game.”
Once at West Shore, Johnson kept his passion going with an extra push to try harder.
“I’ve always wanted to play on varsity since seventh grade, and finally reaching that goal two years ago made me want to try even harder to prove my spot.”
Unfortunately, Johnson does not have any future plans with the sport as he’s ready to step into the next stage of his life.
“Sadly, I don’t plan on continuing with soccer,” Johnson said. “I always played for fun, never thinking it would turn into anything more; plus, I want to focus on my studies, but who knows! I might find an outside club at UNF where I can still play.”
With the ending of the 2020 season for the boys, the real loss seems to be the beloved personalities of those continuing on to college.
“It’s sad to know Leighton and everyone else won’t be returning,” Villanueva said. “We’re losing great friends and great players.”
By Olivia Thompson