By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– Stayton Head Coach Chris Shields was already looking forward to this season that’s starting Tuesday as soon as the Eagles finished up their 12-0, 4A Cumulative Week State Title Run.
Year-after-year, Stayton has been a 4A playoff fixture of sorts. You know they’re going to be a tough out, you know they’re expecting to be contending for the league Title and reaching the State Title Game.
And somehow year-after-year, with kids graduating year-in and year-out, Shields plug-in guys into the right positions to get the best out of them and succeed.
He loses defenders in Eric Gomez and Colby Fredericks. Isael Ramiez, Pedro Garibaldi and Omar Garica will step-in, Garcia was an All-State defender this past Spring. The Eagles graduate Carlos Gomez in net, leaving Trevon Kenzi and Roman Gould, two freshmen who’ve seen some action this Summer in scrimmage time at goalie.
Goalie is the one spot Shields is curious about, but knowing the past success he has there with Gomez filling in for Ivan Pelayo and Pelayo filling in for Jose Navarro, it’s just a matter of time and getting those live reps.
“Roman and Trevon have done pretty well, they’re just young,” Shields said. “That is the one piece that we are missing, if we had some experience there…we’re experienced everywhere else. It’s hard to replace Carlos, he was really good. We thought Carlos could replace Ivan (Pelayo) and obviously he did.”
In the field, there’s no doubt that Stayton is poised to make another run at the title. Jayden Esparza was 4A State Player of the Year. His brother Ismael is equally as good.
And what was surprising, Jayden didn’t lead his team in goals. He was like John Stockton for the Eagles, setting up his brother and Julian Flores this past season.
“I mean Jayden didn’t have a lot of goals, but he had a lot of assists and created a lot of problems for teams and Ismael was a benefit to all of it. He scored double-digits and was the second-leading scorer on the team behind Julian,” “If those two guys go off and step-up their already high-level of play, then it creates an opportunity for guys like Jesse (Wright) and everyone else around them.”
Santos Navarro and Owen Samuels are expected to step up in the midfield in replacement for Flores and Omar Renteria with Stayton starting the season with a tough start to the season.
They got Gladstone to open, followed by Valley Catholic with both games on the road. North Marion at home and Marshfield in Cottage Grove before opening Oregon West Conference-play September 14 at Newport.
A true test to see where they’re at before seeing what their conference has to offer this year with Cascade handing Stayton two of their three conference defeats the past four years.
“All of those teams are going to finish Top 8, Top 7 maybe,” Shields said of their preseason slate.
The Eagle Boys will open the season August 31 at Gladstone for a 6pm start before going to play the Valiants September 2 at 7:15pm.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald