By Jeremy McDonald
TAYTON, Ore.– It was 11 years in the making for the Stayton Eagles Boys Soccer team. Last time they’ve won the State Championship was 2010 when the squad rode an emotional journey that was capped by their 1-0 win over Hidden Valley.
Over the next few years, they’ve reached the State Title game. But finished second in 2014, 2015, 2017 and 2019 as that elusive second title slipped away from the Eagles each time they got to the big stage. For the last ride for their seniors in the six-week season, they went 9-0 in the regular season. Won their lone playoff game while defeating Ontario on the road in Bend to reach their sixth title game since 2010.
Covid-shortened season or not, this ride has been a special one pointed out by Eagles Head Coach Chris Shields.
“Any state championship is special; this one doesn’t feel differently from the other one. We knew at the start of all of this we had a special team who had a chance to win it all,” Shields said.. “I am very proud of our senior class and their hard work. Without them we don’t have made this happen but we also had contributors from all age groups.
“I am also happy with the whole process, I feel like we played good teams to get to the final, so it’s not some fluke or a title you but an asterisk next too. Overall, this will go down as a state championship for the ages. We started strong, came out with a focus to win it. Jayden, Damien (Uribe), Omar Garcia all played really well. Overall massive team effort and so happy that we could make it happen,”
Jayden Esparza struck first about 15 minutes in against Phoenix, the game being held in Sutherlin. Junior Navarro and Carlos Gomez added goals with the Eagles coming out strong and sharp as they’ve had all season.
Stayton’s lead increased to 4-0 after a Riley Burns goal, but the Pirates of Southern Oregon would get a late penalty kick in the game to snap the shoutout in the 4A Showcase Championship. It was only the fifth goal that the Eagles had given up all year as they picked up eight shoutouts in their 12-0 season and brought home Stayton’s first title in 11 years.
The Eagles graduate six seniors from this year’s squad as they’ll look for another strong season in the Fall and look for a possible third-trip to the State Title game.