By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– The 2016 season was shaping up to be another great year for Stayton Boys Soccer.
Without Ivan and Freddie Navarro, the Eagles were adjusting to life without two of 4A’s best offensive threats as they jumped out to a 7-0-1 start to the year.
Unfortunately, the injury bug bit Stayton around that time and not a bigger injury than to one of their Starting XI guys in the defender side of the field in Jose ‘Chivo’ Gomez.
In a game against North Marion, which is slowly becoming a rivalry over the past few years within the OWC Conference, Gomez tore the ACL in his left knee in a event that he only recalls as a blur of when it happened.
“I can’t really remember because all I can remember is falling to the ground and the pain,” Gomez described the injury when it happened that faithful game in 2016. “I forgot about everything.”
As he waited for surgery and was healing up, you could tell something was different with the Eagles slightly without their six-foot-and-some-change defender/mid-fielder. It was like the air was sucked out of the figurative balloon a little as they tied with Philomath and Newport towards the end of the season as the injuries piled against the Eagles.
On the sidelines, on the bench next to Head Coach Chris Shields and the Varsity Coaching staff, Gomez knew it hurt him seeing his teammates out there and wanting to help, but know he couldn’t do anything about it as Stayton’s season came to an end in Brookings-Harbor on November 2, 2016 in the first-round of the 4A OSAA State Playoffs.
“When I was on the sidelines and they’re playing out there, I wish I could be out there with them…a difficult time,” said Gomez. “It was kind of hard watching them play and it was kind of hard because of me watching on the sideline because I’m so use to being out there.”
During the off-season, he did get the surgery to repair the ligament and was on the slow and mostly tedious road to recovery.
When he was allowed to rehab with the team, it was simple things: Latter work, running on his own, a little stationary bike on the track while his teammates trained in the spring and into the summer.
And during the recovery, Gomez admits it sucked not being able to be out there with his teammates every-time they went out to practice or play in the summer.
“At first, when it happened. It was difficult for the first weeks because you can’t do much, just lay in bed. I was kind of getting tired of it because of the crutches and everything. Everyone’s out here playing soccer and I’m inside,” said Gomez on the healing process.
But he knew the pay-day was coming. He thought it while doing stuff on his own with his teammates training around him without him out with them, he was vocal about it on social media about his excitement to get back onto the pitch.
As he watched from a distance, the time healing and rehabbing helped him appreciate the game he’s loved for a while now.
“A lot because I went through a long-time of recovering and all of the therapy and doing my own running and stuff, it helped me hopefully become a better player than I was this last year,” said Gomez.
By August, he was finally cleared to practice after seeing his team win the 4-H Title without him against one of 6A’s best in McKay; and with his big bulky knee brace, the senior was finally able to join his team after months of hard work to get back out this point.
“I’m very excited because I was like, ‘finally’,” starts Gomez. “It felt good to be back, felt good to be back with the team because I felt like I was a piece missing from the team.”
Then, August 29: First Game back versus the Dallas Dragons.
When asked about his emotions following this game Tuesday, you could tell he the emotions were there of all the hard work and sacrifice he put in to get back here to the pitch; 100-percent for his team as they defeated Dallas 9-1 to start the season 1-0.
But it did take some time to get back into the swing of things pre-injury as warm-up and the first-half starting up with Gomez trying to find his groove again.
“Just trying to get use to it because I’m not use to playing a lot but I was excited,” said Gomez. “First game back and I’m ready to go all the way.”
On one of his arms, the sleeve that says ‘Captain’, and yes he was one in 2016 as well, but there’s something about being a captain for your team that is something; especially after the last few months for Gomez.
“It feels like an honor because I’ve seen a lot of good players as captains on this team, the last three years and when I was younger, it feels good to be a captain because your like the person in charge of the whole team,” Gomez described being named Captain in 2017. “You know the Man leading on the field and everything.
“It’s like your another coach like Shields, feels like your the back-up.”
Entering this last hurrah of High School, he was talking about going all out for this year during his recovery with a smile on his face and all over social media, and now that this moment is here:
Gomez is going to enjoy every last second of it.
“This year because I’m a leader out there, he (Shields) said I should lead the team because Shields chose me to be a captain and I feel like if we can lead them, as seniors lead them, I feel like, maybe win State.”
As for that big bulky brace, well let’s just say it’s not his most favorite piece of equipment to be wearing.
“It feels good,” laughed and smiled Gomez. “I don’t like it. I feel like taking it off but I have to play with it no matter what to make sure nothing happens and keep it stable. But I don’t like it.”