The Philomath High School boys soccer team will open its season on Tuesday at North Marion with a lot of familiar names on the roster. Mark Grimmer and Dylan Bell — both first-team all-conference selections during last spring’s shortened season — will be in uniform. So will second-teamer Mateo Candanoza, a junior who continues to develop into a force on the 4A pitch.
Senior Blaise Pindell along with juniors Teddy Benbow, Chase Ringwald and Seth Arthurs also return to help offset graduation losses.
“We actually have a bunch of people back from the season before,” fourth-year coach Dave Ellis said Thursday before the Warriors competed in their home jamboree. “The biggest of those, Noah Aynes, is coming back from an injury … he missed last season with long-term concussion problems. He’s cleared up and good to go, so that’s a big win for us.”
Aynes will be part of a strong midfield for Philomath with Pindell and Arthurs also in the picture, the coach said. Bell anchors the defensive back line with Ringwald and junior Cody King among those contributing. Ellis said a few players are competing for the starting left-back spot.
In goal, Benbow’s back to try his best to frustrate opposing shooters.
“I think Teddy’s as good of a goaltender as you could ever want,” Ellis said.
Up front, Grimmer and Candanoza will make their presence known and Aynes will get some work there.
“This is probably the most technical team I’ve had in my four years here,” Ellis said.
Newcomer Silas Pittman will have an immediate impact on the varsity despite being only a freshman.
“He’s left-footed player … adds a lot, big kid, smart,” Ellis said. “He has a lot to learn but he’ll do well.”
Grimmer will be the first to admit that his game was a little off this past season.
“Mark seems to have recovered his form from this spring,” Ellis said. “He was out of sorts, he wasn’t the regular Mark, but he seems to be back and ready to go.”
Preseason workouts have been positive as the Warriors get ready to tackle a challenging schedule.
“The spirit’s been really good,” Ellis said. “I think everybody just appreciates being able to be back. … Everybody appreciates a bit of normality.”
North Marion will be a challenge in Tuesday’s opener with the Huskies coming off a 6-3-1 season and ranked No. 5 in the OSAAtoday preseason coaches poll. The Warriors will then host Molalla, compete at Blanchet Catholic and host Gladstone before getting into Oregon West play.
“I think it’s good in the preseason to have four games,” Ellis said. “A few years, we only had two because we had such a big league. So that’ll be nice to get out and just have a bit of time to sort things out.”
Around the league, Stayton will be the team to beat with the Eagles ranked No. 1 in all of 4A heading into the season. The Eagles lost four first-team players from last spring but return plenty of firepower, including OWC player of the year Jayden Esparza.
“Stayton should be the hands-down preseason choice for state champs,” Ellis said. “(Coach) Chris (Shields) runs an excellent program.”
With 28 players on the roster, the Warriors will have a junior varsity team with Bill Callender serving as the head coach. With a shortage of officials, home games will be stacked with varsity at 4 p.m. and JV following.
A second assistant who was with PHS last season, Evan Munn, moved to Bend.
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