Carlos Navarette wasn't only playing for Waterford High each time he stepped onto a soccer field, he was playing for the town itself.
"Waterford got its high school a few years ago, and it's become a centerpiece for the town," soccer coach Barry Wixom said, noting the school opened in 2001.
While the school has achieved academic success -- it recently earned a bronze rating in U.S. News and World Report's ranking of the best high schools in America -- its athletic programs lacked a signature season.
Navarette, The Bee's Boys Soccer Player of the Year, and his Wildcats teammates took care of that.
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The sophomore scored 52 goals -- making him No. 2 in California -- as Waterford went 20-0-5 before losing in the Sac-Joaquin Section Division VI title match.
"The excitement we generated was quite something," Wixom said. "People in town are very passionate about the school, and everyone got behind the team."
Navarette was at the center of the excitement, twice scoring five goals in a match and finishing with nine hat tricks -- at least three goals in a match. He had the ability to score even when defenses were planning for him.
Not bad, considering it was his first year of high school soccer.
"I ran cross country as a freshman because my dad wanted to build up my endurance," said Navarette, who was playing club soccer with the Turlock Tornadoes. "This year, my dad said it would be OK to play soccer."
Navarette scored four goals in a season-opening 8-2 win over Ripon Christian and scored twice in a 2-2 tie with eventual Trans-Valley League champ Escalon.
"I never thought I had to score for us to win, so that took a lot of pressure off me," Navarette said, noting Juan Gutierrez (29 goals) and David Alvarez (23) were potent scorers. "If the defense just worried about me, we had other guys who could do the scoring."
Navarette was alone, however, when it came to breaking past a defender and attacking the goal.
His quickness, endurance and ball-handling ability made him a threat any time he had the ball.
"When I saw Carlos in our first scrimmage, I realized he could be a special player," Wixom said. "You could see he had the ability to score, but what really caught my eye was the way he kept everyone else involved."