By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.–As they go around McKay Park before practice on a warm-up run, there was a fire in the Scots eyes and a mental focus knowing what had happen during the second-round of the playoffs versus McMinnville and the 4H Finals against Stayton a few short weeks ago.
A focus, a pain a renewed sense for a McKay team replacing several cruical players entering the 2017 season.
“When we lost to Stayton, I saw a lot of these guys down and ‘it’s just 4H man’, we should use that as motivation and something we can grow off of,” described Anthony Mota on the 4H Final. “I try helping a lot of them, they were sad and, ‘it’s all good man’, it’s just something we could use to, we’re learning from our mistakes, we can learn from our mistakes, we can fix them so throughout the season we can learn from.”
With them losing nine seniors from their 2016 team, but what replaced with those seniors leaving, were 12, 13 junior turned seniors who matured and saw saw growth as the season is less than 48 hours away from starting.
“I do see a lot more maturity, I do see a lot of growth, I do see them mentally prepare on their last year, good to go,”said Head Coach Ben Lopez. “I mean physically, I’ve seen so many kids come and go in the last four years, five years. But man, this year compare to other years, I mean the kids that I even cut, man we’re just shape wise, condition-wise, skill-wise; they impress me in every way.”
“I think that our lineup, we’re looking at a starting lineup that has been playing together for the last three, four years together. I’m disputing having a senior or freshman goalkeeper.”
In a unique twist, Lopez has three freshman mixed into the Varsity lineup, one of them being Uriel Bravo, who with Ricardo Epinoza are on the Varsity roster in 2017 as both look to replace Brandon Morales in the net.
Both were part of a goalkeeping group that was reduced from eight at the start of try-outs to four or five today with roughly 80 kids coming out for the team this season; the turnout, said Lopez, is something that is great for a Scots program who has been in the postseason every year since 2009.
And with a heavy freshman group and a few sophomores and juniors on the Junior Varsity squad this year, that confidence is there for the future as they have their jamboree at South Salem Friday morning and early afternoon.
“Just maintaining a solid program, that happened to me when I started three-years ago when I took over the program, I thought for some reason that I was going to be short on players as the previous years, we lost key players,” said Lopez. “But we have a amazing group of freshman that we got this year. We have another great group of players coming from Waldo and Stevens (Middle Schools).
“As far as me worrying about me, ‘oh man’…no, no I just believe that whether your JV or whether we’re Varsity, we’re a unit and I know that the unit whether it’s JV,it will be key players for next year, we’ll continue with the success that we’ve had in previous years.”
For this years senior group like Mota, it’s about continuing what last years senior crew did in leading and to leave their impressions on the younger guys in 2017 for when they leave after this season.
“Well, throughout these four years I’ve been here, the program has grown a lot. I’m proud to be apart of it and hopefully the seniors from last year left some good statements, I hope I can leave that too,” starts Mota. “They left a lot of leadership. Me as a senior, I feel like I should take part in this program and help a lot of the new players grow and I feel like that’s what they left behind.
“I have to take that part and help these young guys grow.”
And what a start to the season for these seniors to help lead their younger teammates and help them mature as they did last season. They open with Parkrose (Lost 5A Play-in), and play David Douglas (McKay won 1-nil in 2016), Newberg (6A Quarterfinalist), Lincoln (2015 State Champs, Scots won 2-nil in 6A 1st Round 2016), Sherwood (6A Playoff team) and the defending State Champs in Lakeridge.
The idea of the hard scheduling doesn’t even scare McKay’s Head Coach as he believes that they can compete with anyone in the State of Oregon.
“I ask for the most tough programs and I think I got them,” said Lopez. “I got the Parkrose, the David Douglas, the Lakeridge, the current champions. We got Lincoln, two-year ago State Champions, so I asked for a tough schedule because I know that we can face tough programs out there and we have proven.”
As they prepare for the jamboree, where they play at 11am at Glimore Park and 1pm at South Salem’s football stadium; the fire and desire from the McMinnville Playoff loss and the Stayton loss over the summer has fired up the boys for what is to come.
And Lopez is excited to see what is to come this year.
“Like I told those coaches at the 4H Finals, you haven’t seen us yet,” said Lopez. “We’re a different group of kids compare to the team that was competing that day, but I think we’re ready to make some noise.
“We’re ready to make those uniforms that our AD Jerimy (Kelley), the whole administration there provided us. We don’t only want to look good, but make sure that those uniforms stand out while their out on that field against those top schools.”