By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– All Stayton needed was a win or a tie to win the Oregon West Conference Boys Soccer Title outright coming out of their game against Philomath Tuesday night. Sitting at 7-0-2 to the Warriors 6-0-3, the ball was in the Eagles court to win the Conference Championship.
But it wasn’t an easy task to say the least. First off, they were coming off a 3-0 win over rival Cascade. Second, Philomath were hungry to make things difficult for Stayton to achieve the goal at hand and thirdly, Mother Nature reminded both teams that it’s late October with the moderately-heavy precipitation and wind. Something that hasn’t been a factor much this season until just recently.
Both teams, though, rose to the occasion in the 1-1 tie Tuesday night to close out the regular season. A first half goal by the Eagles Ishamel Esparza in the 20th minute that was matched by Silas Pittman’s goal in the 59th as the rain tampered off for the final thirty minutes of the game, allowing the teams to field and play the ball a little more cleanly than they had the first 50 minutes of the game.
“It’s a big deal, big deal to show up today and work hard after all the games. Last game of league going into playoffs, we came out here in cold weather and a long bus ride, we came out here and worked hard and I think this league season has shaped us very well for the fact that we had to work really hard as a team. Found that deep down of a drive to play some real soccer,” Pittman said. “It’s been a big, big deal. It was pretty tough, but we battled back at the end of the day and ran the clock out. Going down 1-nil, 2-nil several times in our High School careers, we just got to learn how to battle back and it’s paid off.”
The Oregon West Conference was a tough one with four of the five teams hovering around the Top 15. The Cougars for instance, who the Eagles played Monday after last week’s wildfire smoke delayed it into this week, is around 14 in the OSAA Rankings and Stayton had to turn and burn for their Top 5 game tonight.
Something that they rose up for as they looked as sharp as they did for their second 80-minute game in 48 hours. With support amongst themselves and playing for their seniors, they matched the intensity of Philomath to ensure the Warriors didn’t break the tie.
“The last two games…honestly all of our games we’ve been playing with all we got because we know it’s important. We want to do it for our seniors since it’s their last game’s now, so we’re just playing as hard now with playoffs. We’re going to play and train even harder,” Esparza said. “Just supporting each other. If someone messed up and our teammates supporting us, it just brought us back up and just kept going at it.”
Philomath returned the favor defensively, making sure that their offense was one drive away from possibly handing the Eagles their first loss of the season. The buzzer got to both teams before the tie could be broken as the two top teams in 4A look to continue their run into the postseason coming up.
Photos By Jeremy McDonald