Mateo Candanoza
Philomath High junior Mateo Candanoza works the ball against Stayton on Tuesday. Candanoza scored one goal and assisted on another. (Photo by Logan Hannigan-Downs/Philomath News)

For the first time in program history, the Philomath High boys soccer team has earned an Oregon West Conference title. Stayton dampened the accomplishment on Tuesday with a 3-2 victory in the regular-season finale and as a result, the Warriors and Eagles will actually go down in the books as co-champions.


Still, it’s a major step forward for a program that hasn’t earned a conference title since 2009 when Philomath was in the Val-Co League. Even during Philomath’s state championship season of 2012, the Warriors finished second behind Stayton in the league standings.

The Eagles, meanwhile, have won or shared four of the last five Oregon West titles with a 45-4 conference record since 2017.

“That’s the best team in the state and we know we can beat them,” PHS coach Dave Ellis said before walking over for a postgame chat with Stayton coach Chris Shields. “We know we can’t get away with the mistakes we had today.”

Philomath defeated Stayton, 1-0, on a Mark Grimmer header on Sept. 30.

“The first time we played them, we had nothing to lose — we were the underdog, nobody expected us to do anything,” Ellis said. “Today, the boys for the first time all season played with a bit of fear, they played with the fear of losing and that affected our style of play and gave the upper hand to Stayton.”

The two teams didn’t give up much on defense past the midway point of the first half. Stayton’s Angel Garcia had a shot stopped in the sixth minute when Philomath goalkeeper Teddy Benbow went high. Four minutes later, Warriors freshman Silas Pittman had an opportunity that got shut down.

In the following minutes, Stayton had more chances at goal but were turned away — Angel Garcia off a corner kick in the 12th, Santos Navarro on a shot wide left in the 14th and Jayden Esparza on an attempt that Benbow blocked in the 15th.

The Warriors came fairly close to slipping one in off a corner kick in the 23rd minute with both Blaise Pindell and Mateo Candanoza in position but denied. A few minutes later, Candanoza took a ball into the right side of the box and attempted a cross to Grimmer, who missed a probable header goal by about 10 inches.

Stayton finally broke through in the 30th minute when Jayden Esparza scored in traffic following a corner kick.

In the second half, Philomath found itself in a 2-0 hole seven minutes in when Stayton’s Wright scored from about 25 yards out.

The score remained 2-0 until the 65th minute when Candanoza scored off a feed from Grimmer. Plenty of time remained for Philomath to try to score the equalizer, but Stayton had an immediate response two minutes later on a Navarro goal.

In the 77th minute, Philomath again cut the deficit to one when Grimmer scored with an assist to Candanoza. Then the clock worked against the Warriors and the Eagles were able to get out of town with the victory.

“I was proud of the way we came back, I was proud of the way we pushed on,” Ellis said. “I thought we were a little unlucky with some of the bounces, some of the calls, but those things happen.”

Grimmer persevered in a physical contest to extend his goal-scoring streak. Grimmer has scored in every game this season and has 25 in all.

“Mark was a warrior today … he got kicked in the foot three times early and he was in a load of pain,” Ellis said. “He didn’t have to go back on but he did for his team.”

Philomath appears to have the No. 2 ranking locked up and should advance to the state playoffs as an automatic qualifier, which comes with a berth in the 16-team bracket. As such, fans should anticipate the Warriors playing at home on Nov. 3. If the home field ends up being too wet and sloppy to host a game, it’s probable that it would be moved to Crescent Valley in Corvallis.

Assuming a No. 2 seed, Philomath would then host games in the quarterfinals and semifinals if the Warriors advance that far into the bracket. The championship game is scheduled for Nov. 13 at Liberty High School in Hillsboro.

Said Ellis, “We’ll grow from this, we will learn from this and the pain of this day will hopefully inform our decisions from now and into state.”

Stayton 3, Philomath 2
Tuesday, Oct. 26, at Philomath HS

Stayton (13-1, 9-1)123
Philomath (13-1, 9-1)022
First Half: 1, Stayton, Jayden Esparza, 30th minute.
Second Half: 2, Stayton, Jesse Wright, 47th minute; 3, Philomath, Mateo Candanoza (Mark Grimmer), 65th minute; 4, Stayton, Santos Navarro, 64th minute; 5, Philomath, Grimmer (Candanoza), 77th minute.

Conference Standings

Oregon WestConfAllGFGA
Sweet Home

Saturday, Oct. 23
Philomath 8, Newport 0
Cascade 3, Sweet Home 1
Monday, Oct. 25
Newport 5, Sweet Home 1
Tuesday, Oct. 26
Stayton 3, Philomath 2
Cascade 1, Sisters 1

Corvallis 2, Philomath 0
Monday, Oct. 25 at Crystal Lake Park, Corvallis

The Philomath JV team’s record stands at 4-4-1 on the season after a Monday loss to Corvallis. … The JV Warriors are scheduled to play Wednesday at home against Newport to end the season. has no paywall but we do rely on voluntary memberships. If you’re already a member, thank you. To join our community as a member or to make a one-time contribution, please CLICK HERE.