This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As most adults can attest, middle school can be a difficult time for teenagers who are beginning to go through several physical, emotional and social changes. A cross-country move of nearly 2,400 miles can exacerbate that stress. Doing it the day before the first day of eighth grade could make it overwhelming.

Despite having to undergo such a quick change, Juan Diego junior Martin Kelly has created a new home in Draper thanks to his life's main constant — soccer.

"I've been playing soccer since I was a tiny kid," Kelly said. "My town was a soccer town. Above all else, soccer was the best and always came first when it came to sports. So I just grew up and fit right into that program."

Kelly grew up 30 miles south of Boston in Easton, Mass., where he learned how to stop shots before he even could develop a decent stride on the soccer field.

"I started playing keeper when I was in the first grade," Kelly said. "I was just at a soccer camp for fun, and I thought I'd give it a shot. It worked out pretty well, I guess. I've always been a keeper. It's always been what I do."

Kelly's skills as a goalkeeper continued to develop in his soccer-crazed hometown as he matured. He was comfortable. Knew his teammates. Knew his surroundings. Until his parents shared the news about the move.

"It was sudden for sure," Kelly said. "My dad was already traveling to Salt Lake a lot because of work, so my family just decided to make a permanent move. It was definitely difficult."

And there was no time to ease into his new surroundings. But he clung to his passion, which proved to be his saving grace.

"I moved to Utah the day before my first day of eighth grade, so it was move to Utah and boom," he said. "I was there and I knew nothing about the culture or any of my classmates. It took me a while to adjust to how it is here. I just hung around for a while, but soccer was definitely what helped me to fit in eventually."

Playing club soccer and meeting some of the boys who eventually would become his teammates on the Juan Diego squad was what changed Kelly's perception of Utah. He quickly learned that his new friendships would erase the burden of an uprooted life.

"When you play soccer with all these guys so often, it's inevitable that you're going to make new friends quickly," Kelly said. "I love these guys. I've only known them for a few years, but I feel like I've known them my whole life. They're very welcoming. We all have one goal, and that's to win. You can't win if you don't have everyone on the team getting along. I praise them for building that brotherhood."

That brotherhood could explain how last year's Soaring Eagle boys' soccer team posted an 18-0 record, culminating in a Class 3A state championship, all with a sophomore goalkeeper in Kelly who led the state in shutouts.

"I had the best team any keeper could ever ask for in front of me," he said. "They made my job really easy. I just had to come up big when I had to, and I did the best I could. All the credit goes to the guys in front of me because they're usually the ones putting me in good positions."

Kelly enters this season season as a 5-foot-11, 170-pounder who is determined to repeat and exceed his 3A all-state first-team selection from last season.

"I was expecting [an All-State selection], but not necessarily because of how good I thought I was," Kelly said. "I led the state in shutouts, but I can barely even take credit for that because of how well the defense played in front of me. I'm always trying to be at the highest level. If you believe you're the best, then you're going to play like you're the best. I'm not trying to settle for less than anything but the best I can be, so I'm always going to try and play my hardest."

Kelly didn't bat an eye when asked about a realistic goal for 2017.

"We're definitely looking to repeat," Kelly said. "We did it last year, we can definitely do it again if we work as hard as last year's group did. Obviously, every game we're trying to come out and win. You can't go into a season thinking that you're going to lose some games just because we didn't lose last year.

"It's almost an entirely new squad this year. We've got a bunch of different guys because we lost a lot of good seniors last year. This year's group is looking to come out and win every game we play. Hopefully we can produce the same result." —

Class 5A in brief

Defending champion • Viewmont

Outlook • The Vikings will be the surefire favorite to repeat as champions. They return five all-staters from last year, including Tribune Player of the Year Drake Cook to fend off Davis and Layton in Region 2. Fremont, last year's runner-up, will look to make another deep tournament run but will have to fight off Weber and Sky View to claim Region 1. Isaiah Cardoso and the Bingham Miners look poised to repeat as Region 3 champs, while Lone Peak and American Fork duke it out for the top spot in Region 4.

Class 4A in brief

Defending champion • Maple Mountain

Outlook • The Golden Eagles return loads of offensive talent with the likes of Ian Stonehocker and Dawson Beutler, but they will have to replace some key defenders, including departed goalkeeper Spencer Young, to stay ahead of Wasatch and Uintah in Region 8. Region 7 lost a lot of talent, so expect a battle royale between Provo, Mountain View and Alta. Murray will look to stay atop Region 6, while Ogden and East decide the fate of Region 5.

Class 3A in brief

Defending champion • Juan Diego

Outlook • The Soaring Eagle return six all-staters from last year's undefeated team, including junior goalkeeper Martin Kelly, who led the classification in shutouts last season. It's going to be difficult for anyone from Region 11 to top the Soaring Eagle. Snow Canyon looks poised to repeat as champs in Region 9, but never sleep on Dixie or Desert Hills to pull an upset. Canyon View most likely will stay atop Region 12, while Stansbury hopes to stay ahead of Grantsville and Park City in what could be a wide-open Region 10.

Class 2A in brief

Defending champion • Waterford

Outlook • Waterford lost six all-staters to graduation, yet the Ravens will be favorites to repeat as 2A champs with five more all-staters returning from last year's loaded squad. But they'll have to fend off South Summit to remain at the top of the 2A North. Manti returns some talented youngsters from last season with the hopes of repeating as 2A Central champs, but the Templars need to keep an eye out for Wasatch Academy. St. Joseph and American Prep likely will battle for the 2A West crown, but Intermountain Christian could be a surprise contender with three underclassmen all-staters returning. American Leadership from the 2A South rounds out the contenders.

— Talon Chappell

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