Warrior Nation: A preseason look at OWC boys soccer

It’s late December, the OSAA pushed back athletics and it’s uncertain if games will actually be played or meets will be organized with the pandemic’s rules changing from week to week.

But for fun, I’m going to take a look at the “Season 2” sports teams. A lot of this is all based on recent history and athletes that should be returning (you never know how the pandemic will impact certain athletes and then you have things like families moving to another city or even sending their kids to another state to play … ). Schedules will likely be limited to conference only. In other words, a lot of unknowns and questions, but hey, I want to start getting high school athletics back into the conversation.

In this blog, I’ll take a look at the Oregon West Conference in boys soccer. If all goes according to the current plans, soccer practice will begin Feb. 22 with games to follow the week of March 1.

Last season, Philomath finished a respectable fourth in the conference with a 7-5 record. Heck, in the Oregon West, if you come out of it with an above-.500 record, it could probably be labeled a success.

You can assume that Stayton — the defending league champion and state runner-up — will again be among the top teams in the league. The Eagles did lose some key seniors to graduation (goalkeeper Ivan Pelayo and midfielder David Ramirez to name a few) but most of their starters should be back in the lineup, including co-player of the year Jayden Esparza.

We won’t need to worry about Woodburn, however, with that school’s petition up to Class 5A. The Bulldogs were placed in the Mid-Willamette Conference and will probably be considered one of the teams that would challenge for another state title (if we even have state playoffs).

But back to the Oregon West. Cascade had a lot of underclassmen on a team that last season finished third behind Stayton and Woodburn in the league standings. Julian Lopez, junior midfielder/forward, would be a top returnee for the Cougars.

Philomath, fourth last season at 7-5 in league to accompany an 8-7 overall record, should have a solid group returning. The Warriors missed the state playoffs with a 3-1 loss to Hidden Valley in a 4A play-in game. Mark Grimmer, a junior, is an exciting player to watch and players like Adam Hernandez, Nick Stucki, Andrew Mecham and others have an important presence on the field.

Newport, in my mind, is one of those teams that historically is always near the top of the league standings, but the Cubs had a down year in 2019 with an uncharacteristic sub-.500 record. Newport was senior-heavy last season so we’ll have to wait and see how the program fares with the abbreviated schedule. Midfielder Aidan Pierias, junior, should be a top player back.

Sisters struggled last year but does have some talented returning players that can handle themselves on a soccer field (seniors Connor Linn and Nathaniel Alvarez, and junior Ricky Huffman). Sweet Home had a very, very difficult time in 2019 with only three goals scored during a winless season.

I guess heading in and with no real information, I’d have to assume Stayton is the team to beat with Cascade and Philomath fighting it out for second.

OK, that was fun. Now, let’s hope we can actually watch some soccer in a few months.

Philomath
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