He's qualified because: Scored 19 goals and delivered 13 assists for Tri-River Athletic Conference and Central Section Division I champion Bears. The All-TRAC pick also helped Buchanan reach CIF Southern California Regional D-I final, scoring his team's only goal in a 4-1 loss to San Clemente.
Also considered: Clovis North's Villyan Bijev, the TRAC Offensive Player of the Year who's widely regarded as one of the most talented players in the Central Section and who scored 15 goals for D-II quarterfinalists.
J.P. Medina wasn't about to let his last chance go to waste.
Not after he could do no more than sit and watch as his top-seeded Buchanan High boys soccer teammates were upset on penalty kicks in the semifinals of the Central Section Division I playoffs last season by Centennial.
Medina played roughly 90 minutes during a wasted junior year – and none in that final game – as he was sidelined by a nagging hamstring injury suffered before the start of the high school season.
"You go out to practices and games and you want to hop back in, especially when your team is down a goal," Medina said. "And you just can't. It was tough."
So, Medina had one goal in mind for his senior season.
"It was Valley championship and that was it," Medina said. "It didn't matter if I scored a lot of goals or didn't score any goals, I just wanted to win that championship."
Medina didn't disappoint in the finale to his four-year varsity career, as he returned to health and helped drive the Bears to an undefeated Tri-River Athletic Conference season, that elusive D-I title and a runner-up finish in the CIF Southern California Regional D-I playoffs, scoring the only goal in Buchanan's 4-1 loss to San Clemente in the final.
The speedy center midfielder, who has a scholarship to UC Riverside, scored a team-leading 19 goals and distributed 13 assists for a Buchanan team that went 22-3-3 and finished ranked No. 16 in the nation in the ESPN Rise Fab 50. Medina had a hand in 32 of the Bears' 76 goals.
"He was the engine that made us run," Buchanan coach John Spurgeon said of The Bee's Boys Soccer Player of the Year. "He was the energy for us."
Medina's return had a wide-ranging impact on the Bears this season. Spurgeon switched several players around – most notably moving his son, Trevor, from defense to the midfield – last season to make up for Medina's absence.
But with Medina back, Trevor Spurgeon returned to his normal spot in the backfield, helping solidify a defense that would allow 22 goals on the season.
"Having him back helped out a lot," Trevor Spurgeon said. "It freed up a position, where we didn't have to force anyone to play out-of-position. He slid back in and people were able to do other things."
After scoring 40 goals and making 28 assists in high school, Medina is ready for the challenge of playing college soccer. And John Spurgeon said Medina – who has been a part of the U.S. National Under-15 and Under-17 programs – could have a future in the sport even beyond college.
"If it's what he wants and he continues to have the passion for it that he's had, I see him being a pro someday," Spurgeon said. "I could see him having a very good shot at the MLS."
That would be just fine with Medina.
"I'm going to college for four years and if I have what it takes to go pro, I'll go pro," Medina said. "Going pro was always a dream of mine as a kid."