A League of his Own

Gabe Latog, Staff Writer

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Varsity soccer player and senior Zwannah “Z” Johnson made a mark in his final high school season in 2019, scoring 25 goals in 19 league games, solidifying himself as the Foothill Valley League’s top goal scorer by 10 goals. Johnson has played at the varsity level ever since he came to Oakmont his sophomore year. With the talent and physical attributes that he possesses, Z was able to take over the pitch with his deadly goal scoring ability, while adding some flair and finesse to the game.

“Just seeing that I’m up there as one of the best this season, it boosted my confidence and it shows that the team came a really long way,” Johnson said.

As a member of the varsity team for three years, Z has carried the #12 on his kit throughout his Oakmont career. For athletes, the number they wear on their back can just simply be a number or it can be a way to represent something, and for Z, the #12 was a number that grew in meaning as years passed by.

“The #12 came from my sophomore year when I got called up to the varsity team, and since I was one of two sophomores on the team, I got to pick last,” Johnson said. “I just picked 12 because it was the only number available and it was the only number close to what I wanted. But moving on to my junior year and senior year, I picked 12 because I wanted that number to represent something on the field. Every time the opponent would say ‘mark 12,’ I wanted that number to be a dangerous number.”

Along with Z’s individual success, this year’s varsity team also thrived in an impressive fashion as well, finishing undefeated in league play. With a solid starting 11, the team was bound for great things to happen. Team success does not occur solely because of talent, but from a full collective effort, and this year showed us that team chemistry established something special.

“This year [there was] a lot of dedication,” coach Robert Opel said. “The whole team had the right atmosphere, they all got along, they were a family, and they worked hard. And then you just had some outstanding performers, that’s for sure.”

Speaking of outstanding performers, Z’s overall game was not something that could be overlooked. His ability to dominate the pitch as a forward came not only by the improvement in his talent and physical attributes, but by a shift within himself. Great players in sports are highly cerebral, and for Z, his mental hunger to unleash his abilities and to reach a new limit in his game came with a change in mindset.

“My game has definitely gotten better,” Johnson said. “From last year to now, I’ve just gotten mentally better and just having the ability to believe in what I can do as an individual player and how I can bring that onto the field. This year I took it as ‘it’s my senior year. It’s all or nothing. We’re going in or we’re going away with nothing. And this year I have to make a mark and somehow I just have to put my best out there,’ and that’s what I did.”

With a refined mindset and great talent, Z’s game became even more deadly than it had ever been. The ability to outpace defenders and finish close to and far from the goal made Z an unstoppable force and a nightmare to mark.

“The deadliest part of my game this year was my fast movement and finishing,” Johnson said. “A lot of defenders were slow on their feet, and with the way I approach my game, every time I come in I just want to finish. I have that mindset of a striker. The swiftness and the ability to finish, and my dribbling as well were deadly attributes, especially my left foot. That’s the foot I always like to go on. And basically every team knew that, and knowing that, they still couldn’t stop it.”

After a dominant season, the future for Johnson looks bright. He plans on playing at the collegiate level after he graduates this year, and wants to expand his journey from then on.

“I plan on playing in college,” Johnson said. ”Folsom has reached out to me, and looking at their record and how the school performed last season, and my coaches encouraging me how Folsom is a good school to improve your game, I do plan on playing.”

With a bright future ahead, Johnson hopes for a shot at playing professionally. Honoring those at the professional level, he models his game after greats such as Cristiano Ronaldo. As a forward, he draws comparisons from his friends of world class soccer players from today’s game.

“Based on where I play, I take a lot from Ronaldo, I take some from Dembélé,” Johnson said. “Most of my friends compare me to Pogba or Balotelli, those types of players because of the swiftness and I’m just aggressive on the ball.But if I could compare myself to one player, I would say, probably [Ousmane] Dembélé. I like the way he plays, the way he dribbles, his movement on the ball, it’s insane.”