If Thursday's jamboree at Sisters is any indication, the Crook County Cowboys are a much improved team from a year ago.
After dropping their first three matches a year ago, and going 3-10-1 overall, the Cowboys looked to be in midseason form on Thursday as they went undefeated at Thursday's jamboree.
Playing 30 minute games, the Cowboys broke out on top in both of their matches, scoring early to take control.
Crook County went on to defeat La Pine 2-1, then shut out Sisters in a 2-0 victory.
"I'm very impressed," Crook County first year head coach Ramone Castañeda said. "I'm very motivated by what these kids have got. They showed a lot of heart."
Ever since taking the job, Castañeda has made it clear that his number one goal is to develop the Cowboys into a team that plays together.
The recent past has been checkered with moments of brilliance and moments where players yell at each other and play selfishly.
Although the team did not always communicate well with each other on Thursday, Castañeda was pleased with what he saw.
"To win our first two little small games, we did good as a team," he said. "We still need some improvement with communication, but we've got this."
Kevin Sanchez and Elias Villagomez scored the two Cowboy goals in their opening competition against La Pine, while Sanchez and Kevin Arroyo each scored in the second match.
Although Castañeda was pleased, he also recognizes that the team has a lot of work to do before they can compete for a state tournament berth.
The team has added a number of players since the first week of practice, but still need more players in order to be able to field a JV squad.
Keeping a JV program is crucial to the team's development in years ahead, but may have little impact on this year's win loss record.
Thursday, the Cowboys showed that they have a lot of team speed. Putting that speed to good use will be one of the keys to having a successful season.
Returning players to watch for are forwards Kevin Sanchez and Kevin Arroyo, midfielders Jesse Sanchez, Villagomez, Giovanni Vargas and Mitch Warren, and defender Wyatt Langston.
The Cowboys have also been bolstered by the addition of defender Carter Williams, a transfer from Nevada, as well as a solid core of talented freshmen.
Right now, Castañeda is focusing on improvement.
"We need to keep improving," he said. "We have to keep playing as a team and take each game as it comes. We still have some work to do, but I think we will be alright in league. They played good tonight. They came out and played hard. I was very impressed."
The Cowboys open their regular season on Thursday when they host Madras in a 3 p.m. match. The match will be a good test for Crook County as Madras is a perennial Class 4A power, which defeated the Cowboys 9-1 a year ago.
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