"All right, I'm beating you," Atanackovic told his coach before the Falcons' first match.
The coach welcomed the challenge.
"I hope you do, because that means our team will have success if you beat me," McClung replied.
Atanackovic came close to keeping his promise, tying the mark by tallying 33 goals this year for Crescenta Valley.
The junior was indeed a prolific scorer, and his exploits helped lead the Falcons to a fine campaign. The team boasted a 15-3-5 record and put up an 11-0-3 mark in the Pacific League to secure the team's second consecutive league championship. In the postseason, Crescenta Valley advanced to the CIF Southern Section Division IV quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
The breakout season helped Atanackovic land the Pacific League's Most Valuable Player award and paved the way for a place on the All-CIF Division IV first team.
He finished the season with four assists to go with his 33 goals, which accounted for more than half of the Falcons' 58 goals this season.
McClung said Atanackovic was definitely fueled by the challenge.
"The kids were teasing me when he had 30 or 31 goals, asking what I'm going to do if he beats me," said McClung, who was named the Pacific League Coach of the Year. "I said, 'I want him to beat me. That means we're winning games if he's scoring that many goals. … It was a friendly wager and I hope he goes for 40 next season. I think he's got the ability."
Atanackovic's incredible junior campaign on the pitch looked a lot different from his accomplishments in 2010, when he scored 12 goals and received All-Area and all-league first-team honors. His drastic jump this season led Atanackovic to being unanimously named the All-Area Boys' Soccer Player of the Year by the sports editors and writers of the Glendale News-Press, Burbank Leader and La Cañada Valley Sun.