EAST LAKE — Josh Page didn’t grow up playing with his East Lake High teammates – learning each other’s tendencies, playing to each other’s strengths – it just looks that way.
Pinellas County’s most dangerous threat with a soccer ball at his feet doesn’t even have two full years with his current team, yet his assault on local goalkeepers continues as though he’s been playing with this talented group of Eagles forever.
Page helped send East Lake into Winter Break on a positive note by scoring his county-leading 22nd and 23rd goals of the year during a commanding 4-1 win at rival Palm Harbor University. The senior has already surpassed last year’s goal total of 21 with PHU’s Hurricane Watch Tournament, districts and, hopefully, the postseason still left to play.
But although it appears Page seamlessly transferred his game to East Lake from Belle Vernon, Pa. with ease, there’s been a learning curve he’s still navigating to get to this point.
“At first it was a little difficult just because I didn’t know them and they didn’t know me,” Page said of the transition and playing with his fellow forwards and attacking mids. “But I’m loving it. I’ve got awesome coaches, some of the best I’ve had so far. They brought me in, brought my confidence up and taught me the right style to play.”
For East Lake C Alex Stenson, it didn’t take long to appreciate what he had in his new striker. “He does what he’s good at: he scores goals. He’s a goal scorer and one of the most natural I’ve ever had.”
Page’s goal-scoring acumen and being his team’s marked man is nothing new. He filled the same role for two years at Belle Vernon Area High School, about 45 minutes south of Pittsburgh, while leading the Leopards to consecutive Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association quarterfinal appearances. According to a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review article from this past August, Page came south having already netted 45 goals and assisting on 46 others in his high school career.
That proclivity for ending attacks by finding the back of the net, even when done with such striking, individual skill, is always a result of an 11-man East Lake effort, Page said. The senior is as modest and unassuming off the field as he is bold and flashy on it.
“It is a lot of pressure [being called on to score] but the team is what gets me there. I’m thankful to have a team that can support me and give me those balls to finish. Without that I wouldn’t have much.”
It’s teammates like Pierre Goris and Tanner Young, former Clearwater Chargers U.S. Soccer Development Academy members, that are adding even more potency to Page and East Lake’s offensive attack. And the trio is still learning each other.
“I’m thankful they came over because that just gives us more support,” Page said of Goris and Young’s presence. “We’re starting to connect better, we all are, from the goalkeeper to the strikers. We’re moving as a team on the pitch instead of being so spread out.”
Page and his Eagles mates have parlayed those connections into a 14-1-1 record and No. 2 seeding in this month’s Class 5A District 7 tournament. A little more fine-tuning and East Lake may find itself back in the region finals and beyond.