By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– The conference just got tougher this upcoming season for the Stayton Eagle Boys Soccer team.
Over the past four years, the Eagles battled with North Marion, Newport and Philomath. With North Marion being switched out and Sisters coming in, the argument that the league this year was strong was there with the Outlaws beating Stayton in 2016 in the 4A State Title Match.
And though that alone would make the Oregon West Conference arguably one of the strongest leagues in the State, the addition of Woodburn remove all doubt with their back-to-back State Titles in 5A and three of the last five 5A State Title they’ve appeared in entering 2018.
Having seen the Huskies and the emergence of the Cubs with the Warriors nipping at their heels over the years, the Eagles feel like they have a good grasp of what is to come over the coming months.
“I feel like we have a good shot against both teams and we’re probably one of the better teams of the conference,” said Omar Renteria on Woodburn and Newport. “I feel like if we play the way that (Head Coach Chris) Shields is telling us to, I feel like we got a good chance to possibly come out with a win or give them a run for their money.”
The Eagles are 2-1-1 in the regular season against Newport outside of their 2017 State Championship appearance with Stayton not playing Woodburn in recent years. But with Jose ‘Chivo’ Gomez, Alex Cramer and Jacobe Croff out of the starting lineup and Courage Minten gone, it’s up to the new faces like Alex’s younger brother Nolan, Carlos Gomez, Julian Flores and Salem Academy-transfer Micah Jenkins to help fill in those shoes with the number of returners coming back.
For Jenkins, who transferred after the Crusaders Fall season before the start of Winter where he was part of the Stayton basketball team, is slowly adjusting to the high demands that Shields ask and challenges of his team with Jenkins looking to make contributions to the team this year.
“I definitely think I have a spark of energy to bring in for guys and subs and stuff like that to come in and bring that energy, so they can rest up and can get back in,” said Jenkins. “I know I’m not the best player, but definitely can help support them and getting them some rest.”
With the addition of a few goalkeepers, Jose Navarro has been getting some action out in the field, joining his fellow returners like Kevin Hernandez, David Gomez, Carlin Croff and Maurice Zamudio.
By the end of practice, as they like everyone else in the State battle through the air quality, Shields reminds them that they are two days away from starting the season against McLoughlin at home at 3pm Friday as they slowly start tapering off against their first tough challenge against a well-traveled Pioneer squad.
“We just got to keep who we know we have and just get the ball up to the forwards. We know who we have and just finish chances,” said Nolan Cramer. “These next two days, their light but they’re going to be important trying to keep that work intensity up is going to be really important also.”
Photos By Jeremy McDonald