By Official Florida FC
Braden Masker became the first player from the panhandle to win Florida’s Mr. Soccer award. The Panama City Beach Arnold senior led the Marlins with 38 goals and 18 assists during a season that ended with a heartbreaking loss in the Class 5A state final.
In December, Arnold head coach Jonathan Hammond said Masker is “going to be a huge piece of the puzzle.” He certainly was.
Masker produced either a goal or an assist in 21 of the 23 matches he played in this season. The state final happened to be one of those two matches; however, the senior forward nearly equalized with a stellar piece of skill with less than 10 minutes remaining.
Arnold, looking to repeat as FHSAA champions, lost to Miami Belen Jesuit 1-0 on Feb. 26.
Masker was the captain of an Arnold team that ran its undefeated streak to 39 games this season. Masker scored the only goal in Arnold’s 2-1 loss against Niceville on Jan. 8 that snapped the unbeaten spell after 36 wins and three draws dating back to February 2020.
Tampa Prep midfielder Santiago Castaneda finished second in the voting. Castaneda helped the Terrapins finish 21-0 and become the sixth boys soccer team in state history to finish the season unbeaten and untied.
Port Orange Spruce Creek forward Jadon Swartzlander was third; Orlando Bishop Moore forward Omar Rivera was fourth and Fort Myers Canterbury forward McLaren Baggett was fifth. Meanwhile, Carlos Zambrano, who helped Doral Acadmy win its second straight state title, finished sixth in the voting.
Tampa Prep head coach Doug Smith was named the statewide coach of the Year after helping the proud program return to its past glories. Tampa Prep finished its season ranked in the top three of both the Maxpreps and United Soccer Coaches polls.
Smith is 165-68-36 at Tampa Prep. This year’s title was his fourth overall, but first since 2013.
There were plenty of candidates for the Coach of the Year recognition. Doral head coach Pamela McDonald, winner of the 2021 award, led the Firebirds to their second straight title. Belen Jesuit head coach Tanger Mendonca led the Wolverines to their second straight title – and had to beat 2021 Class 4A champions Arnold in the process. Then there was former USWNT midfielder Staci Wilson who led the Pine School to a 17-0 record and outscored opponents 105-7, but finished fifth in the statewide Coach of the Year balloting.