With switch from football to soccer, Wilbon becomes asset for Mount Everett boys
SHEFFIELD -- The St. Joseph boys soccer team had already lost twice to Mount Everett this year, and Crusaders coach Rick Kovacs said the Eagles were going to have to make it three in a row without their big weapon from those other two games.
"He's beat us both times," Kovacs said of Mount Everett forward Malik Wilbon. "This third time around, I made sure that someone else on Everett was going to beat us today."
That's respect and considering that Wilbon, a former football standout at Monument Mountain, hadn't played soccer since the second grade, some might consider it surprising.
Wilbon didn't pick up a point in the Eagles' 4-0 win on Tuesday afternoon, a victory that put the Eagles (8-1-2) into the Western Massachusetts Division IV tournament.
The senior had a hat trick in a win over Sabis, had scored three times in two games against St. Joseph and has seven goals this season.
"Considering it's only halfway [through the season], that's more goals than I thought," said Wilbon.
"He's the fastest kid I've seen so far this year," Everett midfielder Sage Angell said. "He's athletic enough to get by people and serve it on a platter for us."
Mount Everett students can play football at Monument through a co-op arrangement. That arrangement helped earn Wilbon an All-Eagle designation last year.
"I wanted to try something new," said Wilbon. "Rugby is one of my favorite sports and soccer has an up-tempo pace, and I didn't like that about football."
He averaged 10.5 yards per carry running the football for the Spartans. He caught nine passes for 115 yards and had 27 kick returns for 546 yards.
"He had actually asked me two years ago to come and he said he was thinking about it," Everett coach Jesse Carpenter said after Tuesday's win. "I told him to go back to football, because he was probably one of the best players in the county.
"When he came out this year, I said that he's a senior and if you're going to play, that's great."
Wilbon plays basketball for the Eagles, and admitted that playing a second sport for his school in his last high school season was also part of his decision-making process.
"That kind of factored into it because I wanted to do something for my school, because I only play basketball here," he said, adding that he played rugby in the spring for the Berkshire United high school club. "I wanted to come here and join the team, play for my team and I'm glad I did."
Angell said that he and his teammates tried to get Wilbon to come out and play with them in the past, but he had been committed to football. Now that he's in cleats and shin guards, the former running back said the adjustment has gone well but hasn't been easy. He did admit that he was concerned about being so far behind.
"I was, at a point. I felt that if I worked hard enough and did the stuff that Carp told me to do, that I'd learn," said Wilbon.
In the game, Angell set up Dan Litchfield for what proved to be the game-winning goal, and Angell finished with a goal and two assists. The Eagles dominated play for 80 minutes, outshooting the Crusaders 22-2. St. Joe goalie Shaun Parzick made 11 saves as Everett booked passage into the tournament.
"Last year we qualified, but it took until the last game of the season," said Carpenter. "It was win or go home. To qualify this early is nice."
Wilbon's Monument football teams never qualified for the Western Mass. tournament and Wilbon's Mount Everett basketball teams put their uniforms away when the postseason arrived.
"I haven't played in the playoffs yet at Mount Everett," he said. "It feels really nice to be in the tournament."
St. Joe 0 0 -- 0
Everett 3 1 -- 4
ME--Dan Litchfield (Sage Angell), 15:00. ME--Nick Tomich (Angell), 31:30. ME--Kosta Casivant (UA), 39:50.
ME--Angell (Tomich), 62:06.
Saves--SJ: Shaun Parzick 11. ME: Ryan Meyer 0.
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