By Jeremy McDonlad
STAYTON, Ore.– This time last year, Kevin Hernandez was part of a Cascade Cougar Boy’s Soccer team that was preparing for their 4A Play-In game versus Mollala after going 5-8-1 and 3-6-1 in Oregon West Conference play.
He knew of Stayton’s high-standards that long-time Head Coach Chris Shields has set-forth having played against them twice in the two-years prior to the 2017-2018 season, Hernandez knew it was just a different feeling. Almost like playing Newport for baseball or Cascade for football; something is different yes, but it’s similar with Stayton and soccer.
“It’s different, different atmosphere. Everyone here, it’s like a big community, Cascade’s like a small…it’s like a country-school, so there’s not many supporters, Stayton’s like a small little town,” describes Hernandez. “You got Regis, you have houses right next, right along the fences.
“A lot more people come out to sports, just the supporting atmosphere when your playing is just big compare to Cascade.”
Over the summertime, playing for the Eagles 4-H team, Hernandez contributed right off the bat knowing of those high-standards and trying to live up to those standards that he saw while playing down the road in Turner his first two-years of High School.
It didn’t take long for Hernandez to register his first Hat Trick with his new teammates in a 5-2 victory over South Albany in June with Stayton defeating McKay in Overtime for the Championship on July 20.
“I played at Cascade for two-years playing against Stayton, so I knew the standards are really high,” said Hernandez. “So I knew transitioning over here, I had to step my game up. that sophomore-to-junior year is a big jump, so I had to give it my all. It’s a big transition but it’s working out well.”
When the Fall season started and the games began to count in the win-loss record, it seemed like every game Hernandez was finding the back of the net similar to what some great Eagle forwards have done in years past.
A goal game here, hat trick there a brace there, Hernandez has became almost a star similar to how he was with the Cougars.
After scoring roughly 16 goals in his first two years of High School, Hernandez has almost matched that if not coming close to that total 13 games into this season. It too helps in term of chemistry when you’ve played with some of these guys in club ball as well as been playing with your cousin since you could walk.
“A lot of these players, I’ve played with in club, so I know we have really good chemistry together,” said Hernandez. “I grew up with some of them, I’ve played with my cousin probably since we started to walk, so we’ve got really good chemistry, we’re all really good friends, we’re all good with one another.”
As he picked up one last regualr season goal against Newport Tuesday night, he remembers the challenge that Jose Ramirez gave to him after he took him underneath his wing has the junior taking it to heart:
Break my record.
“Jose Ramirez, when he use to play here, he use to be a coach here, but he has 29 goals here and he told me, ‘Just beat it’,” said Hernandez. “He really brought me under his wing coming over here so he really taught me the ways. He taught me different ways to finish and where to position the ball, position myself in the field.
“So my goal is to get 29, hopefully in playoffs I can get a couple more in.”
With playoffs coming around the corner, anything is possible.
And now we’re back to the postseason, a year later.
Call it a Lucky 13-0, Call it a Baker’s Dozen, Call it Shields allowing Techno music to be blaring in the football stadium on a random Wednesday night in late-October; but the Stayton Eagles still have a chip on their shoulders as they did after Newport took away their streak, after losing in the first-round of the 2016 Playoffs after two-straight trips to the State Title game. Being number two in State instead of number one.
Regardless, it’s still there as they heal up during this week off.
“Just ranking up there, I don’t know why we’re ranked number 2, we should be ranked one but being high in rankings gives us an advantage playing at home in playoffs we will have a lot of support,” Hernandez said point to the rankings as a example of the chip on their shoulders. “So with a lot of support, we can honestly beat any team until the final.
“So if everything goes according to plan, we all play our game, then we should make it to the final and hopefully win the Final.”