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Best-kept secret: Kingsford’s Jaxon Buckley hoping to lead Flivvers to unchartered waters


BY DAN STICKRADT

WEB AND CONTENT EDITOR

Twitter: @MiSoccerNetwork


BREITUNG TWP., Mich. – Jaxon Buckley is trying to lead his soccer team to some unchartered waters.


The Kingsford High School senior midfielder/forward has already helped his Flivvers capture their first Upper Peninsula Division 1 Tournament championship in school history this season and with the school’s first opportunity to compete downstate in the MHSAA boys soccer state tournament in nearly two decades, Buckley and Co. hope to gain more than experience – they want to earn some hardware along the way and make a statement.


“I think we can complete with them,” said Buckley of some of the Lower Peninsula teams. “We’re so glad we have the chance. We want to go aways. It will be nice to see how we stack up against some of them.”

Along with Marquette, Kingsford has generally been one of the top teams in Michigan’s great white north region – er Upper Peninsula – and the talented soccer prospect has emerged as the state’s best kept secret.


Kingsford’s Jaxon Buckley has emerged as one of the top players in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and will be eligible for All-State honors for the first time, as U.P. schools are competing in the MHSAA state tournament for the first time since 2006 Courtesy Photo | Kingsford Soccer
“Jaxon is a very good player,” said Kingsford coach Jeff Gordon, whose team enters this week’s Division 3 district semifinals with a 19-1-0 record with Buckley leading the charge with 18 goals and 11 assists. “He’s very experienced. But he buys into the team concept. I know some teams out there might have 1-2 stars, but we believe in the team concept. I would think that Jaxon and some of the others will be considered for All-State, though. We’ve had a great season as a team and hope to continue that winning. We do have some nice players on our team and I know Jaxon really wants to play in college We hope playing downstate gives players like Jaxon some exposure.”

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Although Kingsford has not competed in a league for boys soccer and has played as an independent since launching its soccer program in the late 1990s, the school has always searched for some tough competition.


Buckley and the Flivvers have played a wide variety of schools from Michigan and Wisconsin over the years. But the school, along with its U.P. brethren, have not been allowed to compete in the state-wide tournament since Buckley was a toddler. Due to a court-order that forced soccer out of season in Michigan as part of a 2001 law suit that was finally settled in early 2007 that forced several sports out of season, the only way for the U.P. to continue to compete in boys soccer in the fall and girls soccer in the spring is the U.P. had to be forced to be ineligible for the MHSAA state tournament.


“I never really understood much about it, but I was so glad when our coach told us (back in August) that we’d have the chance,” said Buckley. “I think we can play with a lot of those teams downstate.”


Residing only a couple of miles from the Wisconsin border, Buckley, like several other top players in the U.P., has made the consistent drive down into the Badgers territory for club soccer and even to play in the Olympic Developmental Program system. Buckley plays club soccer for Kimberly Area S.C. and even though he is on the ODP Midwest Region II squad, he is listed under Wisconsin and not Michigan.


“That may seem weird, but we only have to drive like three hours to Wisconsin for ODP or club. If we were part of Michigan (state pool) we’d have to drive all day. I don’t even know where it is downstate but I’m told it’s a ways down there (for ODP),” said Buckley, who is also in the national pool in ODP and will represent the Midwest team at a tournament down south this winter.


Buckley, who is also a quality wing player in hockey, may forgo that sport this winter and might even play basketball. The 6-foot-1, 170-pound prospect would love to continue strapping on his cleats next school year in the collegiate soccer world and will be putting more effort into that dream over the next few months.


“I am really going to start working on that,” said Buckley, whose has received some exposure on the club and ODP circuit. “I will dedicate a lot of time to reach out to some college coaches and send in some film and things like that. I would love to play in college, maybe even Division I.”




Despite being one of the all-time leading scorers and assists players in Kingsford history, the postseason awards have been fewer and far between for the versatile and talented prospect from the south central part of the Upper Peninsula. Buckley was a clear choice for the 2022 All-Upper Peninsula First Team last year as a junior and is the top candidate for the U.P. Player of the Year this season. He is a likely candidate for All-District, All-Region and All-State as any player from the Upper Peninsula and the farther the Flivvers advance in the postseason the more likely that Buckley and some of his teammates will gain traction and consideration for those awards.


This past summer while competing in a Midwest tournament on the club level for Kimberly Area Soccer Club, Buckley was approached by a coach with the Wisconsin-based Croatian Eagles Soccer Club of being a guest player with them for the U.S. Youth Soccer National Championships last July at the ESPN Complex at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Buckley quickly accepted the invitation to compete for Wisconsin’s oldest club – even though he had to drive to southeastern Wisconsin to train.


“That was a lot of fun and a great experience. It was worth it,” noted Buckley, who mentioned that there are a handful of Upper Peninsula players currently on college rosters right now. “One of our coaches is also a (NCAA) Division III assistant coach and he explained to me a few things about college exposure.”

Kingsford’s Jaxon Buckley was a guest player for the Wisconsin-based Croatian Eagle s Soccer Club back in July for the U.S. Your Soccer National Championships in Orlando, Florida. Courtesy Photo | Croatian Eagles Soccer Club


Buckley ended up logging a lot of minutes for the Croatian Eagles S.C. and even reached the scorebook on a couple of occasions.


“That was a great experience,” he said. “I even had a goal in the first game and two assists in the third game. We finished 2-0-1 in our group but didn’t advance based on goal differential. But I still gained some great experience.”


Despite there only being anywhere from 14-17 soccer programs in the Upper Peninsula each year, Buckley, his teammates and some of his competitors are glad the soccer landscape has finally changed in Michigan and at least the teams north of the Mackinac Bridge finally have a chance to compete against state-wide competition.


“Its really exiting for all of us,” he said. “I know there are some good players up here that never really had the chance (to showcase) themselves or teams). Now we have that chance.”


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