Alex Drexler

Northwest junior Alex Drexler was selected the Class 4 goalie of the year.

Standing 6-7, Alex Drexler said he’s grown enough.

“I don’t feel like I have (grown) recently. That’s OK with me,” said Drexler, a junior at Northwest.

He might not be getting taller, but Drexler’s reputation as a standout soccer goalkeeper is expanding across the state and beyond.

I called Drexler last weekend while he was in Orlando, Fla., playing for a J.B. Marine select team in one of the many tournaments they have scheduled over the next several months. In fact, Drexler’s club season carries into next summer when Northwest will hold camp. When Drexler returns from Orlando, he’ll join the Lions boys basketball team.

Drexler played volleyball, too, as a freshman and sophomore, but said soccer might take precedence next spring.

And no wonder. A second-team all-state selection in 2021, Drexler was recently chosen by the Missouri State High School Soccer Coaches Association as the Class 4 Goalkeeper of the Year and first-team goalie. Drexler and teammate Stephen Pryk, a senior forward and honorable mention selection, were the only soccer players from Jefferson County to get all-state notice for the 2022 season.

In Orlando, Drexler watched the U.S. lose 3-1 to the Netherlands in the men’s World Cup knockout round. He also attended the first soccer game last month at the new Citypark soccer stadium in downtown St. Louis, home of St. Louis City SC, which begins play in Major League Soccer in early 2023. Count him in with the many rabid fans who can’t wait to fill that place.

“I like the open air; you’re sitting on top of the field,” he said of the new park.

Drexler can stand flatfooted and touch the crossbar, so he doesn’t have to jump to cover the net vertically. He has a long torso and such fluid lateral movement that it takes an almost perfect “set piece” play to beat him.

Drexler thought he was out of the running for goalie of the year when Northwest lost 1-0 to Jackson in the first round of the District 1 tournament. The Indians have beaten the Lions by that same score three straight years in districts. Northwest lost its last three games, a disappointing end to a strong 20-6 campaign.

The Lions had beaten Jackson 6-0 earlier in the season.

“I feel like they always have a game plan to beat us,” Drexler said. “We beat them and proved we are the better team. The thing about soccer is the better team doesn’t always win. They scored on the one set-piece chance they had. I made the save before the corner kick and got beat on a world-class shot in the top corner.

“I’m excited to come back (next season). A playoff run is what’s needed to have a solid season. That will prove (this past) year wasn’t a fluke and (that) we can win games with another group of guys. We’re losing our top four scorers.”

I’ve written several times about Northwest’s parade of 20-goal scorers going back almost a decade. Pryk led the Lions with 28 goals this year. Combine that level of goal production with an all-state keeper and you’ve got a winning team.

Drexler played 1,978 minutes, made 175 saves and had a goals-against average of 1.33 with 10 shutouts (nine solo). He already holds school career records for wins (51), solo shutouts (25) and consecutive shutouts (six).

Dave Willis got his 200th career victory as Northwest’s head coach on his 40th birthday in October. He has seen his share of talented goalies – full-time soccer players – pass through the program and he insists Drexler has the skills to someday compete on a national level.

“The kid always seems to amaze me,” Willis said. “From when he was in eighth grade, he showed signs he could be special. He started his freshman year and was voted our MVP.

“He can control the whole soccer game. He’s the smartest kid on the soccer field most nights (and) commands the back line. He’s also very good at recognizing when to punt and when to keep possession. He’s the one who makes the decision to play it out of the back.”

There are plenty of tall goalkeepers, but not many who can cover the ground Drexler does.

“Guys who grow quickly are not always in control of their body, but he’s locked in,” Willis said.

Drexler doesn’t turn 17 until February. Besides earning his all-state honors, he is an A student, improving his chances of landing a college scholarship.

“I’ve been reaching out anywhere and everywhere,” he said. “I don’t know where I want to go to school. I’ve wondered what it would be like if I didn’t play soccer. I’ll figure it out in the next couple of months. It’s on me to tell (colleges) I’m goalie of the year.”

Basketball in full swing

I covered the last three games of the Rolla “Duke” Herbert boys basketball tournament at Crystal City on Friday night and got a chance to see four JCAA small-schools teams play.

Crystal City has two all-state track and field athletes playing guard in juniors Camden Mayes and Kanden Bolton and the Hornets can run the floor with anybody. Senior swing man Cyle Schaumburg was the quarterback for Crystal City’s best football team (8-2) in a decade and when you add in senior guard/forward Clayton Roussin and senior guard Ian Kirn, the Hornets have the makings of a strong team inside and out.

Crystal City beat Grandview 61-40 for fifth place in the tournament.

Jefferson beat the Hornets 55-50 in the first round and finished third, knocking off burly Saxony Lutheran 59-51. The Blue Jays dominated the defensive boards, rarely allowing the Crusaders a second chance.

Herculaneum senior point guard Gabe Watkins led the Blackcats with 26 points in a 51-42 win over St. Vincent in the tournament final. Although Seckman’s Anthony Westervelt is sidelined by an injury, I’d rank him and Watkins with Festus senior guard Arhmad Branch as the most exciting players in the county. Of course, it’s early; we’ll see how it all plays out.

Enjoy this week’s boys basketball previews. See you on the hardwood.