Bu Jeremy McDonad
PHILOMATH, Ore.– This was the rematch they were looking forward to since Stayton first played Philomath on September 30 in Stayton.
That was the day the Warriors snapped the Eagles 20-game winning streak and since then Stayton had outscored their opponents 28-0 in the four-game span to ensure Tuesday afternoon’s game meant more than just a playoff spot.
For them, they wanted that Oregon West Conference trophy in some fashion. They got the job done on the road in a 3-2 game that probably gave Head Coach Christ Shields some hair loss in the process.
The Eagles came out firing, taking a 1-0 lead into halftime. Jayden Esparza scoring in the 29th minute before Jesse Wright added to the lead in the 47th. It was as if the loss had awaken the beast within the 4A Power with how they were playing in the first 40-minutes and change.
“It was very surprising the first time. We weren’t expecting that. For this game, we had the mindset of we wanted to win this and we wanted to get payback for what happened,” Omar Garcia said. “During practice we had the mindset, saying to each other that we’re going to try hard to get that back because that 1-0 loss is really hard.”
Garcia pointed to how they held Philomath to a handful of shots, but it was that one that would ultmately make the difference in the first meeting. And in Tuesday’s game, Stayton did a similar job defensively.
The Warriors, who sat ontop of the 4A rankings Tuesday before the game, weren’t going away. They made it obvious in the second half as they got onto the board in the 63rd to cut the 2-0 lead in half thanks to Mateo Candanoza.
Candanoza’s goal was answered a few seconds later by Santos Navarro, but it seemed as if momentum was up in the air. Yeah, three goals were the most given up by Philomath, the Warriors were thinking hitting three themselves though as they try to deny the Eagles from the win and a share of the title.
Mark Grimmer scored with 5:30 left in the game to make it 3-2. Five minutes and thirty seconds seemed to just slowly trickle down like sand in a hour-glass as now Stayton tried to hold off Philomath coming down the stretch.
“It was crazy how intense a game could get. For it being the last game…our seniors, I know they were feeling stressed. But man, we’re a team and we finished it hard,” Wright said. “We’re going to have those hard places and comeback, Junior (Navarro) got one. I mean you can’t do much better.”
The Eagles played possession. Keeping the ball away as long as they could as they tried to see if they could add one of their own. The stalemate by both squads defenses had other ideas as the game ended in the 3-2 result, a good eye-opener as Stayton retake the number-one seed going to the postseason.
“That was basically the wake-up call for us. This could be like a championship game or something. Tight game, the last ten minutes or something. It’s hard, but going into the playoffs we’re going to train hard and work together. Work communication overall. Just going into playoffs we’re going to try our best,” Garcia said.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald