CORVALLIS — Teddy Benbow might be confined to a particular area of the field as a goalkeeper, but it seemed like the Philomath High sophomore was everywhere during Saturday afternoon’s 1-0 loss to unbeaten Stayton.
Forward Julian Flores tried to give the Eagles the early lead in the seventh minute. Santos Navarro found an opportunity in the 11th minute. And last season’s Class 4A player of the year, Jayden Esparza, attempted to find the net on a header in the 23rd minute.
All denied by Benbow.
In the second half, the same story unfolded. Flores attempted a shot from just 10 feet out in the 48th minute and Damien Uribe followed with a couple of opportunities over the following three minutes. Owen Samuel, Omar Renteria, Navarro, Uribe and a freshman named Jesse Wright all had chances over the rest of the half.
All that talent, all those capable offensive players. Advantage, Benbow.
“We played so well this game,” Benbow said after the game, which was played at Crescent Valley High. “Our defense looked really good. We had to swap up our formation because they had the best player in the state last year and he’s still on their team (Esparza). We just had to find a way to deal with him and I thought we did that pretty well today.”
Although modest to a certain extent, Benbow’s comments about the defense as a whole told the story in this game. Coach Dave Ellis made a tactical change on defense against the Eagles to try to put a lid on the firepower that helped Stayton win, 7-2, the first time around.
Philomath added an extra player to the back line.
“They exposed us last time, they’re really good at switching it through and they have really good wing play so by going five in the back, any time it got out wide there was another defender to cover so we weren’t leaving our outside backs quite as exposed,” Ellis said. “And then we flooded the middle with three defenders so there just wasn’t any room for them to get their crossing game going.”
Junior Dylan Bell, who put in one of his best-ever performances with his defensive play, said the back line has reached an important comfort level on the field.
“We didn’t really have the chemistry to start off with and I felt like as the season’s gone on, we’ve been able to find that chemistry a lot better,” Bell said. “And just communicating more and knowing when to shift and who’s going to cover — that’s been one of our big focuses.”
Andrew Chatfield, one of a half-dozen seniors on the roster, said the improvement was easy to see compared to the first meeting between the two schools.
“It was definitely a big improvement. Since I’ve been here, that’s the best we’ve done against Stayton,” Chatfield said. “Honestly, it was a blast. It’s always great to go against a good team like that.”
Despite the score, Philomath’s defense pitched a shutout against the 8-0 Eagles. Stayton needed an own goal by the Warriors to notch the victory.
“Stayton is a fantastic team and they’re lucky to get out of here with a win,” Ellis said. “I don’t really like to take positives from losses but there were a lot of positives today. I mean, Teddy was out of his mind, Dylan was phenomenal and we were dangerous, even in the beginning when we were more defensive.”
On the own goal, Stayton’s offense had the pressure on with a push in the box. Benbow attempted to secure the ball but while away from the net, the Eagles got a foot on it and sent it in. Two Philomath defenders were there with the keeper away but the ball ricocheted off one of them and into the goal.
In an effort to increase its chances in the second half to score the equalizer, Philomath changed up its approach. Indeed, the Warriors had more opportunities down the stretch.
“We played good in the back and switched it up the last 20 minutes trying to get a goal,” Benbow said, “and just couldn’t finish in front of the net.”
In the 72nd minute, sophomore Chase Ringwald brought the ball down the right side and after a few bounces here and there, senior Nick Stucki ended up with a clear view of the net. But the shot missed wide right.
Another opportunity followed in the 76th minute with junior Mark Grimmer taking it in deep and passing over the middle to sophomore Seth Arthurs. But there was no finish and Stayton retained the one-goal advantage.
Philomath has been playing its home games this season on Crescent Valley’s field. The Warriors will play there one more time in its April 3 regular-season finale but that will be against the 5A Raiders.
“I was nervous but it’s technically our last home game — even though it’s not home — so we wanted to put it all out there for the seniors and everything,” Benbow said about the Stayton game. “I thought we played really well. It just didn’t come out the way we wanted.”
Philomath (2-3) will hit the road Thursday to face Cascade.
Stayton 1, Philomath 0
Saturday, March 27, at Crescent Valley HS, Corvallis
|First Half: 1, Stayton, PHS own goal, 34th minute.|
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