By René Ferrán
With only six weeks of competition and no state championship events, it won’t be a normal high school sports season. Nevertheless, we examine the top returning players and outlook for every Class 4A boys soccer league in Oregon.
Victor Martinez (Phoenix) photo by WST Photography
First team: M Garratt Alles, Sr., Valley Catholic; D Conner Bly, Sr., Valley Catholic; M/F Westin Carter, Sr., Seaside; M/F Dodger Holmstedt, Sr., Seaside; GK Luka Rak, Sr., Valley Catholic.
Honorable mention: M Ben Costa, Jr., Banks; M/D Kainoa Henley, Jr., Banks; M Carter Affolter, So., Tillamook; M Bruno Monroy, Jr., Tillamook; D Cooper Howard, Sr., Valley Catholic; M Charles Bettger, Jr., Valley Catholic.
Two-time defending league champion Valley Catholic graduated Cowapa player of the year M Nicolas Tubito and two other starters (D Bailey Hill and GK Connor Matto) playing college ball, but the Valiants still have five all-league returners who can help them hold off 2017 champion Seaside, which narrowly finished second last season.
First team: M/F Aldo Avila, Sr., Molalla; M/F Grant Embree, Sr., Corbett; M/D Javier Sedano, Sr., Madras; M Raymond Garcia, Sr., Estacada; M Alex Rojas, Sr., Molalla.
Second team: M/D Dalton Crosley, Sr., Gladstone; M Tai Shibahara, Sr., Estacada; M Jessie Garcia, Sr., North Marion; M Martin Ruiz, Jr., Molalla; M Antuan Peterson, So., Molalla.
Honorable mention: D Israel Jarquin, Sr., Molalla; M Anthony Guarricagotia, Sr., Molalla; D Isaias Zurita, Sr., North Marion; M Brady McNett, Sr., Gladstone; D Cody Hovda, Sr., Estacada; D Ben Haefs, So., Estacada; D Josue Gabriel, Sr., North Marion; F/M Cole Parker, Jr., Corbett; GK Martin Gonzalez, Jr., Estacada.
The top three teams in the conference were fairly evenly matched last season, but this could be the season Molalla makes it over the hump to win its first league title since 2015. The Indians return 16 players, including their entire midfield that earned all-TVC honors. North Marion won its first league championship since 2014, when it was in the Oregon West, but graduation hit the Huskies hard. Gladstone graduated TVC player of the year Derek Johnson and keeper Nate Burlingame among others. Madras saw its three-year run as conference champion end last season, but the White Buffalos had a strong Season 1 led by Sedano and seniors Manny Flores and Leo Gutierrez.
Oregon West Conference
First team: M Jayden Esparza, Jr., Stayton; M/F Julian Lopez, Sr., Cascade; F Omar Renteria, Sr., Stayton; M David Ramirez, senior, Stayton.
Second team: M/F Jacob Farr, Sr., Cascade; M/F Ruben Ruiz, Sr., Cascade; M/D Otavio Leiriao, Sr., Cascade; M Aidan Pierias, Jr., Newport; F Mark Grimmer, Jr., Philomath; F Isael Ramirez, Jr., Stayton; F Ricky Huffman, Jr., Sisters; D Julian Pelayo, Sr., Stayton.
Honorable mention: F/M Danny Pelayo, Sr., Cascade; M Damien Uribe, Sr., Stayton; M Omar Garcia, So., Stayton; D/M Chase Lopez, Sr., Sweet Home; F Connor Linn, Sr., Sisters; D Jesus Franco, Sr., Cascade; D JJ Mata, Sr., Sweet Home; D Nathaniel Alvarez, Sr., Sisters; GK Dylan Wolf, Sr., Cascade.
With Woodburn successfully petitioning to move up to 5A, there’ll be no rematch of the 2019 final between the Bulldogs and Stayton, which won the conference title by handing Woodburn its only two losses. Esparza, the reigning 4A player of the year, had 20 goals and 15 assists as a junior. Cascade should push the Eagles for top honors led by Lopez, a three-time all-conference honoree, and three returning second-team all-OWC selections. Philomath lost in the play-in round last season but returns a strong nucleus led by Grimmer. The Warriors will get pushed by Sisters, which returns its top two scorers in Huffman (10 goals, four assists) and Linn (eight goals, nine assists).