By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.—Getting a goal against Woodburn is a feat. Defeating the Bulldogs is a rarity, just 11 in their last 98 games. A shutout? Blasphemy. That’s only happened twice the last 47 games.
Call it the Chris Shield Magic, call it luck, call it as you please but the Stayton Eagles found a way to be one of the few to have gotten past Woodburn and shutdown the Bulldog offense in their 1-0 win Wednesday night.
Nerves were there of course. Woodburn scored five goals in the second half of both squads first meeting in Woodburn on September 13 with Stayton at full strength. Forward Kevin Hernandez, who scored the lone goal in that first game, didn’t start the game due to recovering from an injury; but would come off the bench in the second half.
With their offensive leader on the sideline, someone had to step-up to go after the game-plan of putting the pressure on the Bulldogs defense and put them down in a deficit early.
That someone was Omar Renteria, who’s fourth minute free kick put the Eagles up 1-0 on the machine that is Woodburn.
Someone along the fence said following the goal, ‘there’s still 76 minutes left’, which is true knowing the Bulldogs could quickly respond. But the defense of Stayton with Ivan Pelayo in net, answered the bell’s toll and kept Woodburn from knotting the game up at one.
“Last time when we played them, we were scared,” said Pelayo. “But this game, ‘we could do this’ and we did it.”
It’s hard to think a program like the Eagles, three 4A State Championship appearances in the last four years and compiling 65 wins since 2014 wouldn’t be scared. It was the swagger brought on by the Bulldogs that brought a certain kind of intimidation factor with it, and Renteria’s goal kind of helped relax Stayton down a bit to that.
“We know what they do to warm-up, they try to intimidate their teams that they play. But we knew what to expect and Shields told us from the get-go that they were going to come out and intimidate us and we just didn’t let that get to our heads.
“And that goal just made us feel more powerful than they did.”
A through-ball by Renteria to Jayden Esparza almost resulted in another Eagles goal opportunity a few minutes after Stayton’s first goal if the pass wasn’t as strong as it was.
The Eagles left a few opportunities on the board, as did Woodburn with both teams defenses denying the other from scoring. One could make an argument that this could be the 4A State Title Game this year if the brackets play it out.
“I feel like some of us weren’t ready, a few of us were intimidated but it happens. First game is always an experience, you realize ‘oh, they beat us.’ But it’s not about looking at the team, it’s focusing on yourself,” said defender Jose Navarro. “If you want to play harder or not or you’re going to lose the game. Your going to cost the game.”
Where they tailed off in the first game, those final 20 minutes, Stayton powered through. Hernandez had a breakaway to the goal, but couldn’t land the dagger goal that would have put the game on ice with two minutes left in the game.
And with the Bulldogs breathing down their necks in the closing seconds, the Eagles defense held strong and denied Woodburn’s shots and attempt to force a draw instead of a defeat as the final whistle blew.
The win for Stayton, keeps them alive for at least a share of the OWC-title with the Bulldogs if they win out against Sisters and Cascade.
But a win of this caliber, against a team like Woodburn, uncannily make a season though it’s just one of just many games that both teams play this season. And with the postseason coming up, boy can it propel a team.
“We’re just showing the State, that we’re putting Stayton on the map by not letting our guard down with a 5A team,” said Renteria. “We’re showing that we can compete at the highest level if we want to, and if we put the effort in, we can be the best in the State.”
No doubt the Bulldogs will be back, after their October 17, 2017 loss to Corvallis last season, Woodburn wheeled off seven-straight wins for the 5A State Title and it won’t be surprising if they did the same thing this year at the 4A level.
Stayton host Sisters Tuesday, the Bulldogs are at home Tuesday as well hosting Newport/Toledo. Both games start at 6pm.