By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.—As they walked off the pitch October 30 against Seaside in the opening round of the 4A State Playoffs, it wasn’t how they imagined their season going with the talented group around them.
The loss to the Seagulls came on the heels of the Eagles first loss to Cascade in 18 years as Stayton were hoping to take on new-rival Woodburn for the State Title Game a few weeks later as the frustrations and emotions showed itself following the game.
“It just made us mad because we were the best team in the State, like we could have beat Woodburn in the Final,” said Omar Renteria. “We just decided to throw it all away because of our stupid attitudes and egos and we decided to play more as individuals than as a team.
“That’s the main focus point of this year, be a team and not as individuals because players don’t win Championships, teams do. I feel like this year, if we could get everything working and how we could play it out I could definitely see us in another State Title (Game).”
Yes they return individual athlete’s like Renteria, David Ramirez, Nolan Cramer, Carlos Gomez, Carlin Croff as well as Pablo Gomez transferring over from the Cougars program entering this Fall, but it’s about how they can piece it together as one this year.
For athlete’s like a Ramirez, who like Croff, Renteria and Jair Navarro got experienced in their 2017 State Title Game appearance against Newport as they enter this next year under one of soccer’s best in Chris Shields.
“We still have a few of our returning players from last year, so I’m excited for this year. We still have a lot of potential left that we can show,” said Ramirez. “Just practicing the things that Shields tells us to do and just work as a team with effort and that’ll guide us through on being successful.”
Shields has had that magical touch with his teams through the years, getting them to the 2010 State Title Game and winning it that year, while reaching the Title Game in 2014, 2015 and 2017 with his ability to get the boys to buy-in yearly.
But they know too, to not just sniff the Title Game but to win the Oregon West Conference-title, they must compete well against the Bulldogs.
It’s not everyday that you get to have one of the best programs in the State at any classification in your conference with their string of success through the years as well, and there’s some mutual respect for one another after the two teams split in 2018 during their first year together in the same league.
“They definitely scared us the first game, that definitely caught us off-guard but I think both of us and Woodburn know that we’re each other team’s to beat,” said Renteria. “And when we play them, it’ll be one of the best games in Oregon I think. If we train hard, we’re just as good as Woodburn if not even better.”
“They’re from a different classification so we could see how good of a team they are and it just prepares us more to do our tactical stuff,” adds Ramirez.
With this weird Summer continuing with the October-like rain, the Eagles went to work Wednesday with the aspirations to get another deep run and another crack at the State Championship by season’s end.
“We’re looking for leaders and the whole team’s on it. The whole team already knows what’s the plan,” said Renteria. “I think if we have guys…more the Seniors, Juniors step up and lead the younger guys, we can have a team playing at a mature level. All playing at the top class and playing like we’re used to.”
Stayton opens the season September 3 at Gladstone before traveling to Valley Catholic September 5. The Eagles won’t have a home game until September 12 when they host Newport.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald