Sophomore Zach Grapoli scores in the 36th minute to give the Warriors a 2-0 lead Thursday over Cascade. Philomath went on to a 5-1 win. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Following Philomath High’s 5-1 boys soccer win Thursday afternoon, coach Dave Ellis said he asked his players, “Do you want the glass half-full or the glass half-empty evaluation?”

Sure, the Warriors will continue to pick up valuable experience as they work their way through the schedule and the number of wins may not always match up exactly with the level of improvement.

So, what’s the glass half-full perspective?

“We’re tied for first place,” Ellis said.

The Warriors, in fact, were one of only two teams to get out of Tuesday with a league win. Stayton took care of Sweet Home, 8-0, while North Marion and Newport ended in a 2-2 tie.

Philomath (1-3 overall) opened the season with its young roster going up against three programs that currently have a combined record of 13-5-2. Each of those setbacks was by three goals.

Sawyer Ainsworth, right, works with teammate Silas Pittman during Thursday’s win over the Cougars. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

Junior Silas Pittman, who scored two goals and had one assist against the Cougars, sees the team making progress.

“It started off a little rough at 0-3 but we’re progressing, working hard in practice and striving to get better,” Pittman said. “Hopefully we’ll see better results later on in the season.”

The coach sees a squad that will continue to get better as it becomes more battle tested. He said there were moments against the Cougars when mistakes were made “but we weren’t immediately punished and we were allowed to recover.”

Philomath had a handful of opportunities through the first 15 minutes with sophomores Caleb Babcock and Zach Grapoli threatening to score. The Warriors broke through in the 18th minute on Pittman’s first goal, which came on a header off a defender following a throw-in.

Philomath continued to create opportunities but were unable to break through a second time until the 36th minute. Grapoli found the net from 15 yards with an assist going to Pittman.

Senior Favian Aceves sends a ball in from near the sideline during the win over Cascade. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

But a few minutes later, Cascade (1-4 overall, 0-1 Oregon West) scored on one of its few offensive chances when freshman Alexis Valezaquez put the ball in after receiving a pass from senior teammate Brooks Rasmussen.

Philomath then controlled the second half to win going away.

“When we did the right things, we were rewarded and so I’m hoping several of them can open their eyes and anticipate and see what’s coming,” Ellis said. “I don’t really think we’re that far off from being competitive. It’s just a bit of confidence and a bit of understanding the level.”

Senior Gradin Fairbanks wins a ball against Cascade’s Alexis Velazquez. (Photo by Brad Fuqua/Philomath News)

The Warriors went up 3-1 just over 11 minutes into the second half when freshman Jai Braxton found senior Sawyer Ainsworth for a goal. The other two goals came in the final 10 minutes. Pittman was fouled just inside in the box and he buried the penalty kick and then sophomore Luke Arthurs finished on a ball that came his way off sophomore Lukas Hernandez.

“I liked the effort a lot — big improvement from past games,” Pittman said. “Just the level of play, we stepped it up a bit more. We had a big show of fans, which is good for the support and got us going.”

Philomath (1-3, 1-0) will play Tuesday at Newport with a 6 p.m. start on the schedule. The team’s next home game follows at 4 p.m. Sept. 28 at North Marion.

Brad Fuqua has covered the Philomath area since 2014 as the editor of the now-closed Philomath Express and currently as publisher/editor of the Philomath News. He has worked as a professional journalist since 1988 at daily and weekly newspapers in Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, Arizona, Montana and Oregon.