Time will determine whether midfielders Paul Johnson and Colin Turnbull are the best duo in Greater Spokane League boys soccer.
But it’s hard to imagine a local twosome with a more significant bond.
The senior co-captains, who grew up one block apart, have played together for eight years at Indian Trail Elementary, Salk Middle School and North Central High School.
“We have an awareness of where the other is on the field at all times,” said Johnson, who compiled 11 goals and eight assists last year and was named to the all-league first team.
Turnbull, whom one coach touted as the GSL’s potential most valuable player, made last year’s all-league second team. Turnbull already has earned one GSL honor during this school year. He was the all-league punter and placekicker in football.
Johnson and Turnbull’s parallel soccer lives began when they were 5 years old. Both took up the game at that time, although neither came from a strong soccer background.
Not that they lack athletic genes. Turnbull’s father, Frank, was a goaltender for the Spokane Flyers and Chiefs ice hockey teams from the mid-1970s until the early ‘80s.
The Turnbulls and Johnsons weren’t natural soccer nuts, but they embraced the sport as their sons’ skills developed. Both families are heavy supporters of the River City Steelers, the club team for which Johnson and Turnbull play.
Both families are also stocking NC’s future teams. Sophomore Eric Johnson and freshman Owen Turnbull are on this spring’s varsity roster.
Until Paul Johnson’s growth spurt last year, Turnbull was the better-known player. The teammates say they have benefited from playing for NC coach Robin Crain, who led the Indians to third place at state during their freshman season.
“He’s a lot mellower than (club coaches) I’ve been around,” Turnbull said of Crain. “He’s been around, and he knows what’s going on.”
Crain said he can’t single out one of the co-captains because their value to the team is equal.
Their styles, however, are not mirror images.
Turnbull, as might be expected from his football awards, owns the stronger leg. Johnson has the edge when it comes to heading the ball.
“If he’s missing something, I’ll cover it,” Johnson said. “If I’m missing something, he’ll cover it.”
Turnbull didn’t attempt football until his junior season, and then only because of Crain’s encouragement. The Indians’ poor record didn’t discourage Turnbull because football, unlike soccer, was more of a lark for him.
While Turnbull spent his autumn on the sidelines, Johnson kept at soccer. Both will continue playing this summer, then wish they can extend their alliance on the same college team.
Johnson isn’t likely to score 11 goals this season because the GSL schedule has been sliced in half.
With East Valley set to join the league next year, and Mount Spokane (the new Mead school) ready to follow in 1997-98, the league will increase to 11 teams. Because playing each league opponent twice will become impossible (teams are limited to 16 regular-season matches), the GSL’s soccer coaches voted to get a jump on the new setup.
NC, for example, will play non-league matches against EV, Cheney and Juneau, Alaska, to prepare for the league season.
Crain and his co-captains don’t support the change.
“I don’t like it as much because it’s fun to play teams twice,” Turnbull said. “That way, if you lose you always have a second chance.” , DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo
MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: GSL SOCCER Opening matches: Wednesday - Lewis and Clark at North Central; Rogers at Central Valley; Mead at Shadle Park; Ferris at University. Gonzaga Prep’s opener is April 1 against visiting U-Hi. Defending champion: Mead. Panthers have won last 10 titles outright, shared two prior to that. Better late than … G-Prep lost to Mead twice during the regular season, but beat the Panthers for the district title. Prep advanced to the State AAA final and lost to Cascade (Everett). Returning all-leaguers: First team - Rich Cullen, Mead, sr., goalkeeper; Peter Raber, Shadle, sr., defender; Jon Guenther, LC, jr., def.; Tim Bishop, GP, sr., def.; Paul Johnson, NC, sr., midfielder; Joe Ascolese (league-leading 18 goals), GP, sr., forward. Second team Joe Schwehr, GP, sr., def.; Josh Frey, U-Hi, sr., def.; Ryan Massey, U-Hi, sr., mid.; Colin Turnbull, NC, sr., mid.; Ben Brodsky, Mead, sr., mid.; Josh Melcher, U-Hi, jr., for. New coach: Brandon Deyarmin replaces Damon Hagerott at U-Hi. Biggest loss: LC’s first-team, all-league senior midfielder Trever Booth moved to Tacoma and is playing for Stadium High. Biggest change: League teams will play each other once, rather than twice, during the regular season. Predicted finish: G-Prep, Mead, U-Hi, NC, Ferris, LC, Shadle, CV, Rogers. (Mead and Prep both beat traditional power Stadium 1-0 to open the non-league season.)