Sean Stevens shows versatility on the pitch

Phoenix senior Sean Stevens following a varsity boys soccer practice on Oct. 14 at John C. Birdlebough High School. Josh St. Croix photo.

PHOENIX — Sean Stevens has proven equally effective on any part of the field for the Phoenix-John C. Birdlebough High School varsity boys soccer team.

The fourth-year varsity senior has played a critical role in lifting the Firebirds to their highest win total in at least six seasons and the first Section 3 playoff appearance of his career.

Phoenix (11-4-1 overall) garnered the seventh seed in the Class B bracket and was scheduled to host No. 10 Cazenovia to begin the postseason earlier this week.

Stevens enters having scored 12 goals and dished three assists for a team-leading 27 points. He starts at forward and occasionally shifts to defense or midfield in key moments to exploit matchups or to protect a lead.

“It’s always better when you’re winning games and it’s good to see our team come together,” Stevens said. “We’re passing, we’re playing better as a team this year and I’ve seen more advancements in younger kids, they’ve really stepped up into the places of people who have left. We’re improving more than we have through any other year.”

Stevens is a four-year varsity starter at Phoenix and longtime club soccer player for the Syracuse Development Academy.

He plays defense full-time for his SDA national travel team and said he enjoys the variety of adjusting positions between his scholastic and club seasons and during the midst of games.

“I like getting that mixture, so you don’t get too worn out in one spot, you get to move around and explore different areas,” Stevens said. “I think it makes me better as a player to experience all different positions, so I know what other players are going through.”

Stevens’ versatility has helped Phoenix enter the postseason with just one loss in its last 12 outings, posting a 54-11 scoring margin during that span.

He has shifted to defense for full outings due to injuries or quarantine requirements limiting Phoenix’s lineup at various points this season and during portions of their 3-8 condensed campaign last fall amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He will do anything that is asked of him and play anywhere that is asked of him,” Phoenix coach Chris Prenoveau said. “He is a total team player. I think he could fit in any position on any team anywhere, but he fits in so well with us. He’s the total package as far as a coachable kid, a team player, and he’s one of the fastest kids I’ve seen.”

Stevens finished the regular season with 43 career goals and has led or shared the team lead in goal scoring in each of the last four seasons.

He opened his varsity career with a hat trick to help Phoenix win an early-season tournament at nearby Mexico High School in fall 2018.

“When he was given the chance, he grabbed the bull by the horns right away and did a good job,” Prenoveau said. “Once again, he fit in so nicely, even though he was a freshman, the other guys around him saw how hard he worked and didn’t question anything.”

Prenoveau offered a fitting analogy for his senior captain, whose work ethic was developed on his grandmother’s family farm where Stevens still works early hours during the summers.

He also competes for the varsity indoor and outdoor track and field teams and takes part in the P-Tech Program at Onondaga Community College, where he spends part of each school day taking courses for eventual college credits to apply to his interest in studying engineering.

Stevens also got to flash his diverse athletic skill set as part of the Firebirds varsity football team during the “Fall II,” season conducted last spring as a kicker, running back, and defensive back.

“I got to play kicker mostly, scored a touchdown, it was a lot of fun,” Stevens said. “It was different, I got to see what the other kids experienced and it was a good time, I really enjoyed it.”

Jacob Carter, Brendan Champion, and Parker Allers are other long-tenured seniors that have helped elevate the Firebirds into the third sectional playoff berth in Prenoveau’s 13-year coaching tenure.

The Class B quarterfinals are scheduled to begin Monday if Phoenix is able to extend their season.

“We need to move the ball quicker and give up no easy opportunities to other teams, because that can be critical in close games,” Stevens said.

“I hope the kids after I’m gone will have a good season and that carries on,” he added. “I’ve had a lot of fun playing with all of the kids on my team, I really like them all and we have had fun.”

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