Over the years, the Commonwealth Journal Soccer Player of the Year has been awarded to fast, graceful players with tons of goals scored during the season. This year’s Player of the Year award goes to a player who showed great determination and courage just to get back on the pitch after an injury that nearly ended his career two years earlier. His playing on the field led his team to one of their best results in almost 20 years.
Somerset High School senior Christian Whitis has had a sensational year on the football field this season. And while their offensive stats are modest – with five goals and seven assists – their presence on the pitch has made the Briar Jumpers a much better team en route to their 12th regional championship and the appearance of the KHSAA State Tournament Elite Eight. All-State Honorable Mention Christian Whitis was named 2021 Commonwealth Journal Men’s Football Player of the Year.
Whitis missed his entire second season with a broken leg and struggled with the injury for most of his junior year. But as he recovered from his catastrophic leg injury over the course of those two years, Christian Whitis’ tenacity and will to compete grew stronger than ever.
“Christian Whitis has not only been important to this team, but to this program for years,” said Tyler Gillum, Somerset High School boys’ football coach. “The young man is a born leader. Christian suffered a terrible leg injury that would have ended athletics for a normal individual.”
âWith Christian Whitis, there is something special out there that the statistics can’t even try to measure,â explained Gillum. âYou can call it heart, courage, determination, or a combination of all three. Anyway, the young man has it by truck. Christian led this team, holding others and himself accountable. He always does everything possible. to help his teammates, especially the younger ones, improve. “
Whitis’ tenacious efforts to own the soccer ball defined the Briar Jumpers soccer team and their post-season run in depth.
Besides Whitis, Somerset had four other named players to the CJ All-County squad.
Somerset senior Derek Arias was named his fourth CJ All-County team after making his first All-County team in 2017. Arias was named the 2019 Commonwealth Journal Boys Football Player of the Year. Arias has led the Briar Jumpers this season with 15 goals and five assists.
âDerek was a great talent who gave our team a lot of offensive looks all season,â said Gillum. âHe led our team in scoring and was selected as the Second State Team for the second year in a row.
Somerset senior Josh Tucker has been named to his third straight CJ All-County team. Tucker scored eight goals and had five assists that year.
“Josh is another great talent who was important down the home stretch winning the midfield and was tied for second in scorers and assists,” said Gillum.
Somerset first-year goalkeeper Landen Lonesky burst onto the college scene as a member of the All-County squad in his freshman year. Lonesky led the Briar Jumpers on defense with 176 saves and seven shutouts.
âLanden was a first-year goaltender who has been absolutely phenomenal this year, recording five shutouts in our last seven games to help win a District and Region title,â said Gillum.
Somerset first-year forward Andrew Tomlinson was another young player who gave the Briar Jumpers an offensive boost when they needed it most. During the year, Tomlinson scored eight goals and had two assists. Tomlinson scored both goals for the Briar Jumpers in their State Tournament first round victory over Lawrence County.
âAndrew is tied for second in scorers and he was instrumental in our Lawrence County game,â said Gillum.
Pulaski County High School had four players named to the Commonwealth Journal boys’ football team.
Pulaski County senior Timothy Brinson has been named his CJ County First Team All-Star. Brinson was second on the team in assists with seven and scored one goal.
“Timothy played everywhere except a goalie and a striker for us,” said Pulaski County high school boys’ football coach Darrell McGahan. “Wherever the best player from other teams was, he usually had that mission. Absolutely deadly with his set pieces.”
Tyson Absher, a freshman at Pulaski County High School, started his college career on a high, leading the Maroons in goals with 13 goals.
“Tyson led the team in scoring,” said McGahan. “This freshman is going to be a lot to deal with for the rest of his high school career.”
Pulaski County junior Sawyer Gambill made his first appearance on the CJ County All-Star team. Although used in his defense, Gambill scored two goals that year.
âSawyer was the defensive backbone of the team,â said McGahan. “He scored a few goals. He’s always been a danger on corners and free kicks.”
Pulaski County junior Henry Gillum made his first county all-star team. Gillum has six goals and eight assists for the Maroons.
“Henry was second on the team in scorers and first for assists,” said McGahan. “When the Maroon offensive clicked, he was at the heart of it.”
Southwestern High School received four players from the Commonwealth Journal’s All-County Boys football team.
Southwest senior Hayden Shadoan has been named to his second straight CJ All-County team. Shadoan led the Warriors with nine goals and four assists.
âHayden is one of the most talented players in our region,â said Southwestern High School men’s soccer coach Sean McBride. “He did a fantastic job for us. He is hands down the best leader I have ever had. He will definitely be missed next year.”
Southwestern senior Mohammed Abd has been named to his first CJ All-County squad. Abd scored seven goals and got an assist.
âMo (Mohammed) is a very physical player,â said McBride. âIf you’re in his way he’s just going to cross you. He had a solid senior outing. Another great teammate who will be sorely missed.â
Southwestern junior Caleb Lewis made his first CJ All-County team. Lewis has five assists this season for the Warriors.
âCaleb improved a lot between his sophomore year and freshman year,â McBride explained. âHe never stops working on the pitch. He’s played solid for us defensively throughout the season. He’s a utility player. You can put him anywhere on the pitch and you’ll get a solid game. from the child. “
Southwest second-year goaltender Gavin Lawson made his first appearance on the CJ All-County team. Lawson made 142 saves and recorded six shutouts during the year.
âGavin continues to improve every year,â McBride said. “He’s a veteran even though he’s only a second. He’s had a solid season. Gavin is a wall on penalties. I think he stopped five of six shots on goal against us. this year. I think he can take it to another level and I expect him to keep improving. “
Somerset Christian School also received four players from the Commonwealth Journal All-Star Boys’ Football Team.
Somerset Christian Kaleb Martin was the Cougars’ main leader and anchored their defense.
“Kaleb Martin was one of our senior team captains,” said Ben Stein, Somerset Christian School men’s football coach. âHe played for us all four years of high school and has been one of our main defenders for the past three years. This year he helped us keep four clean sheets in our 7-7-1 record.
Somerset Christian junior Braedon Meadows led the Cougars’ offense with 15 goals and five assists.
âBraedon Meadows is one of our main juniors,â said Stein. “He played for us all three years of his high school career. He’s our top scorer this year with 15 goals and 5 assists.”
Somerset Christian junior Samuel Phelps led the Cougars with nine assists and he scored four goals.
âSamuel Phelps is another of our key juniors who has also played with us for the past three years,â said Stein. “He is our center midfielder and has helped our team to many victories with his 4 goals and 9 assists, making him our top passer.”
Somerset Christian junior Noah Brummett scored five goals and distributed three assists.
âNoah Brummett is still one of our best juniors and he has played for us for the past three years,â said Stein. âHe has helped the team achieve many victories with his 5 goals and 3 assists, but his versatility is what makes him truly unique. He has played almost every position on the pitch with ease and has been extremely beneficial and productive wherever he went. “