By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– As we’re getting close to Saturday’s Final and the excitment from Stayton’s comeback-from-behind-victory over McLoughlin High School, the team that’s following Nike’s Slogan of ‘Risk Everything’ is preparing for something the school’s done once in 2010:
For those who were apart of that 2015 team that lost to Sisters 2-1, they know the journey it took to even get back to State, knowing that it wasn’t guaranteed nor will be guaranteed in the future after this year for returning guys like Jose Navarro.
But with Navarro, who played in the 2015 State Championship game against the Outlaws, said that his freshman year’s team got unlucky like the one the year before and know that this team in 2017 in his junior season has the talent to reverse those fortunes of the past.
“It was great, we got unlucky losing for two years including the one the year before,” said Navarro. “But we were only good in certain places, we depending on a few players, but this year is a whole lot different. Everyone can play, a lot of talent.
Navarro, like the rest of the Stayton team, knows the effort and dedication they put in to get to November 11’s game versus Newport speaks volumes to the goal they set out entering this year.
“It feels really great, we put a lot of time into it throughout the summer, we only lost one time and I think 4-H helped us to work together as a unit,” said Navarro on how the summer helped them to this point sitting at 16-0.
As practice wrapped up Thursday, Head Coach Chris Shields flashed a rare smile or two as practice ended with jokes around. Shields is going to his fourth State Championship Game dating back to 2010 where he led the Eagles to the Title 2-1 over Hidden Valley.
Though he’s been there three times before, he is not numb to the feeling of excitement of getting to Championship Day as he flashed a rare smile or two at the end of practice Thursday; but he talks about harnessing that emotion as well for good instead of letting it control the situation.
“I mean I’m always excited, it’s what we work so hard for is to get to that point to be in that position. It’s the pinnacle of our sport you know? So it’s where I want to be, it’s where I want these guys to be. So I’m excited.
“I’m not the most emotional guy when it comes to this kind of stuff, I expect to be here, I expect a certain level of discipline because that’s what it takes in order to get to there and emotion is kind of, emotion in a lot of cases good but in this case, keeping your emotions in check and reserving that energy for things that are more important come is my mantra, or my belief.”
Though they do follow their coach’s mantra, there’s still nerves with their excitement as they enter their final practice before the Cubs Saturday afternoon for the guys like a Kevin Hernandez, who’s goal gave the Eagles an opportunity to fight for the win Tuesday night against the Pioneers.
“There’s a lot of emotions right now, I’m really excited but some of these guys have gone once already or twice, so there’s a lot of experience here,” said the Junior. “I could relate to a freshman because it’s my first-year here, so we’re on the same page here.
“I don’t want my nerves getting over me, I don’t want it to mess up how I’m playing. But I’m really excited for it on Saturday.”
Shields points to Hernandez as one of the key factors along with some other big names that could help Stayton in capturing their second State Title since 2010.
Shields too points out that it’s difficult to beat a team three-times in a season as the Eagles have beaten Newport twice this season, but one thing’s for sure; the seniors will make sure third time’s the charm in the sweep and third time’s the charm for their class to finally bring home that trophy.
“It’s crazy to believe that Saturday is already my last game because it felt like everything just went by so fast and also I’m going to miss it a lot because I enjoyed playing with lots of talented players my four years and for Shields as well,” said Jose ‘Chivo’ Gomez. “On Saturday, I’ll just play harder then I did in all my other games because it’s my last game and of course the championship and help the team win it because it would be great to finally win the championship after three upsetting years.”
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Photos By Jeremy McDonald