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The Falcons remain undefeated through their first five nonleague matches - most of which have come against 6A schools.

PMG PHOTO: ANDY DIECKHOFF - La Salle Prep's Seamus Gwyn (9) moves the ball upfield as West Linn's Gabe Valdes gives chase during the Falcons' 1-0 win over the Lions at home Thursday, Sept. 15, in Milwaukie.

On the way to winning a state title last year, Monty Hawkins admits that his team didn't always feel challenged.

As a result, Hawkins created a nonleague gantlet for his La Salle Prep boys soccer team for the 2022 season. It's a slate filled with a healthy dose of competition from a higher classification, as well as teams who were in Class 6A as recently as last season.

"We're a work in progress coming off last year when we won the state title," Hawkins said. "Candidly, (we) didn't have any opposition almost throughout the season."

So far, the results have been all positive.

La Salle Prep is undefeated through its first five games, scoring outright victories in four matches and tying with Jesuit in the other. Still, despite the success, Hawkins knows the journey has just begun.

"This one is a new journey," Hawkins said, "and the kids are up for it."

In addition to the 1-1 tie against the Crusaders, the Falcons have wins over Bend and Caldera — both of which dropped to 5A as a result of this summer's classification and redistricting changes — as well as Franklin and, most recently, West Linn. La Salle Prep beat the Lions 1-0 on Thursday, Sept. 15, on the strength of a first-half Nate Taylor goal off a long throw-in from Luke Warner.

"These games (against 6A teams), they give us a different challenge because of their physical strength. Technically, they're a bit stronger. They're used to playing at a faster pace than at 5A. They're a little more groomed for it."

After the win over West Linn on Thursday, Hawkins reflected on the Falcons' season thus far.

"We've learned a lot about ourselves," the coach said. "Our roster continuity hasn't been the same for the first five games. A lot of players have gotten an opportunity, tonight being another chance."

Those issues with roster continuity stem from La Salle Prep's two returning All-NWOC First Team players missing matches at the beginning of the year. Now, however, Hawkins is working with his full squad.

"Tonight was the first night that we had Quentin Strange, and we had Kevin Serrano-Maldonado," said Hawkins on the return of his all-leaguers. "It was the first night they'd played in the same game."

Strange and Serrano-Maldonado join a La Salle Prep team full of talent, whether up front with the attacking of Vance Sheffield, in the midfield behind co-captain Seamus Gwyn, or at the back where co-captain Finbar O'Brien and goalkeeper Adam Clem keep opponents at bay. And that's just a few of the names coming together for what looks to be another state title contender at La Salle Prep.

"To come away with (wins) and be undefeated after five games, we're ecstatic," said Hawkins, before reiterating that his team is a work in progress. "We know we have a ways to go."

The Falcons finish up the nonleague season with two more tumbles against 6A competition. First, La Salle Prep goes to Forest Grove on Monday, Sept. 19, and then the Falcons return to Milwaukie to host Mountainside on Wednesday, Sept. 21.

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