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Popular Todd Beamer High School soccer player dies in car wreck
By CASEY OLSON
John Lentz was the prototypical defensive back on the soccer field. He was as tough as they come and wasn't afraid in the slightest to stick his nose right in the face of an oncoming forward no matter who the other player was.
That's just how Lentz played the game. He was all-out, all the time.
But the 2007 graduate of Todd Beamer High School's life was cut short Sunday night when the car he was driving crashed into a billboard pole in Edgewood. The 18-year-old Auburn resident was pronounced dead at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, where he was airlifted following the crash.
Lentz is survived by his parents, Bill and Laural, and younger sister, Sara, who currently attends Beamer.
"As a left defensive back, he was as tough as nails," said Beamer head soccer coach Adam Kulaas. "He represented all that is good in high school athletics and helped build a program that did not exist."
Lentz entered the brand-spanking new Todd Beamer High School in the fall of 2003, along with several other freshmen soccer players. He could have went to Federal Way or Decatur, but chose Beamer because of the opportunity to build the school's soccer program from the ground up. It also offered him the chance to play with fellow 2007 Beamer grads like Brennen Hall, Cory Hoffman, Sean Davis, TJ Young and Ricco Sanchez, who had been playing together from the time that they could kick a ball.
"He did not play for press or to score goals, he played because of the relationships and bonds that he was able to create on the field," Kulaas said.
During their four years together at Beamer, Lentz and the others created more than just a soccer team. They created a family and Lentz was a big part of it.
Lentz started in the defensive backfield as a freshman when the Titans finished 8-8-1 and lost to Bellarmine Prep, the eventual state champions, in the West Central District Tournament. They finished 16-0-2 in 2005 and won their first of two South Puget Sound League South Division titles before being ousted again at the district tournament. Beamer qualified for their first-ever Class 4A state tournament in 2006 after an 11-5-3 season. Last year, Beamer again won the SPSL South championship before losing to Federal Way in the state tournament quarterfinals.
During his four-year Titan career, Lentz never tallied a goal or an assist, but was named honorable mention All-SPSL as a sophomore, second-team as a junior and earned first-team, All-SPSL South Division as a senior. While other players on his team were getting most of the recognition for Beamer's runs into the postseason, Lentz just went out and did his job. Much like an offensive lineman in football, backline defenders in soccer are the ones that do all the "dirty work" while the players up front get the glory.
"We had some pretty decorated players and John wasn't really about that," Kulaas said. "He just did his job. He was like a coaches' player and would do anything I asked him to do. He never questioned me."
Kulaas remembers a conversation he had with Lentz during the middle of last season.
"He looked at me and said, 'I'm gonna get you that ring,' referring to the state championship," Kulaas said. "While we did not accomplish that goal, I got to experience John's transformation from a tiny freshman proudly draped in his FC United jacket to an outstanding young adult, who loved high school soccer."
"He would get into it and get intense," said Young, who is heading into his freshman season as a goalkeeper at Saint Martin's University in Lacey. "He had a passion for the game, but was always able to crack jokes. He liked playing poker and I don't know if he really knew how to play. But he always won. he was always lucky."
According to the Pierce County sheriff's office, Lentz died Sunday night after his car hit a billboard pole in Edgewood. He was speeding when he crashed his yellow Ford Mustang into a pole in the 2200 block of Merdiian Avenue East.
Lentz was airlifted to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center, where he died. The crash happened at 11:20 p.m. and is still under investigation. His body has been turned over the King County Medical Examiner's Office.
Besides soccer, Lentz loved working on his prized yellow 2006 Mustang GT with black racing stripes with his father.
"He loved his Mustang," Young said. "That was his baby."
"I can vividly remember a practice that he missed with a phone call telling me that he and his dad had started to replace something and that neither one of them had a way to leave the house until they installed the new part," Kulaas said.
Lentz' No. 16 Beamer jersey will be retired by the soccer program and hung inside the school's gymnasium.
"Nobody will ever wear 16 again," Kulaas said. "It will stay as a permanent thing and be hung under our two SPSL championships in a glass box."
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com