Illinois Lutheran's Justin Clayton is quite simply an all-around soccer player.
In past seasons, when Clayton was a defender, he could shut down opponents' best players. When Clayton was moved to the midfield to take more of an offensive role earlier in the 2012 season, he did exactly what all offensive players strive to do -- score goals. And in scoring 27 goals his senior season, Clayton broke the school career scoring record with 59 career goals. Clayton's play has led him to be named The Times Player of the Year for 2012.
Clayton has been a four-year starter for the Chargers. As a defender, Clayton was still always capable of offense and when the team need him to score in 2012 he did. His one assist and two second-half goals in a 4-3 win against River Valley Conference rival Beecher at the Manteno Regional semi-final was a perfect example of what Clayton could accomplish on the pitch.
"I really didn't want to go out to them with a loss again," Clayton said. "We just decided we couldn't let this opportunity slip away."
The Chargers shared the 2012 RVC title with Beecher and Clayton was happy with the Chargers' success this season.
"Of course everyone wants to win a state championship their senior year," Clayton said. "We played our hardest and in the end we just lost to a good Manteno team. I'm a little disappointed but I'm happy with the way the team played all in all."
Clayton has seen a 20-0 team his freshman year take an early exit from the playoffs three years ago at the hands of Beecher, and in 2012 he watched a Charger squad with maybe not as much talent battle for a regional title.
"Me and the other captain Jared Wallace were both on the team that went 20-0," Clayton said. "To actually get to the regional championship with a team that maybe didn't have as much skill, but we just played as hard as we could."
The previous Illinois Lutheran scoring record of 56 goals was held by Cameron Teske and achieved from 2004-2007. Clayton is also the second Charger player to be named the Times Player of the Year in the past four seasons. Ben Wallace won the award in 2009.
Clayton is leaning toward Concordia University in Wisconsin and would like to study pharmacy. Illinois Lutheran's coach Andy Biesterfeld knows that whatever choice Clayton makes will end in success.
"He's been an outstanding player for us for the four years he played," Biesterfeld said. "I know that wherever he decides to go he'll be successful."