NIWOT -- In late August, the Niwot boys soccer team endured a sudden and unexpected change in leadership.
When Merv Johnson, who had been hired in July, abruptly turned in his resignation less than a week before the Cougars' season opener, Niwot was fortunate enough to be able to turn to former coach Rob Johnson, whose experience with the program smoothed what could have been a destructively turbulent situation.
Having junior Grant Webster to keep things cool on the field didn't hurt, either.
Webster, a defensive midfielder, provided a steadying presence for a Cougars team that overcame its early adversity to eventually reach the Class 4A quarterfinals. For his savvy leadership and timely offensive contributions, Webster has been named the Longmont Times-Call Boys Soccer Player of the Year.
"It was tough getting a new coach, but I knew as one of the leaders I could help motivate the guys," Webster said. "When Rob came back, he's a great coach and he trusted me to help out these guys. It's great to have that trust between a coach and a player. I feel like I can communicate what he wants to the players rather than him having to say it to them all the time."
Niwot's MVP, Webster earned first team All-Northern League honors and was a second team selection on the Colorado coaches' all-state team, falling short of the first team by only a few votes. Webster's leadership was a key component to a 14-4 season highlighted by a second-place finish in the Northern League.
"I definitely think the team had a successful year this year," Webster said. "We're going to try and build on it next year."
As a defensive midfielder, Webster's offensive production was limited to three goals and six assists, yet he displayed a knack for making those contributions at key moments.
Webster notched his first goal in the Cougars' season-opening win against Skyline. He tallied two assists in a key win against Longmont and recorded three assists during the postseason, recording one in a first-round win against Denver West and adding two more in the Cougars' season-ending loss against Broomfield in the state quarterfinals.
"On the field he's just the presence. He's the calming influence on the field," Rob Johnson said. "When he gets to go forward, he causes a lot of problems defensively. But a lot of times this year he had to be more defensive.
"At practice, he's the first on the field and last to leave. With him being the captain, it made the (coaching transition) real easy. It just made for a very smooth transition."
Follow Pat on Twitter: @prooney07