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The Tigers are masked up and hitting the pitch for a COVID-delayed shortened schedule

The Newberg High School boys soccer team kicked off its 2021 season with a road game at McMinnville on March 1.PMG FILE PHOTO - The NHS boys soccer team will play a nine-game schedule against Pacific Conference teams in a COVID-delayed season.

Before the game, boys coach Carlos Pehr previewed the season in a phone conversation on Feb. 23.

Unlike sports like football, soccer teams have been allowed to practice in a relatively normal fashion since January, wearing masks and undertaking contact tracing to avoid spreading COVID-19. Pehr said the team was looking forward to starting its nine-game schedule — hopefully with a win over its Yamhill County rivals.

"We were lucky because, for the last portion of 2020, we were able to train with limitations and do conditioning and skill work," he said. "We were one of the few counties that were allowed to do anything at that point, and we did in the winter until December — which we took off — before starting things up again in January. We go twice a week and are able to scrimmage so long as we wear masks. The boys work extremely hard and are coming into the season fit and eager to play."

Full contact is allowed at practices — so long as masks are worn at all times — and the same will be true for game action. Whether in the game or on the sideline, players and coaches will be wearing face coverings to keep each other safe and sanitizing all surfaces. Contact tracing before practices is a big part of safety protocols, too.

Beyond the pandemic, it was an eventful offseason for the Tigers that included tragedy and roster turnover.

"Coming out of last year, we were going to be returning a total of 13 or 14 players," Pehr said. "We had the death of Hayden Fredrickson, a couple of players transferred to McMinnville, and a couple of players who were deemed ineligible because they are graduating too soon. We return about eight players that include a very talented sophomore group that has worked hard to develop over the last year."

Fredrickson played on the NHS boys soccer team and was among those who died in a plane crash in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, over the summer. Pehr said the team plans to honor Fredrickson in multiple ways this season.

"We want to do a 15-second moment of silence at our first home game in his honor," Pehr said. "We also have some new warmup tops that will have a logo he designed on them. We put in a bench and soccer ball at our stadium and retired his number in his honor. The whole team was really impacted by his passing, and we just want to show how much he meant to all of us in the community."

Newberg's schedule includes nine games — all against Pacific Conference opponents — before a "culminating week" to play a league tournament. There are no officially sanctioned state playoffs for any high school sport in Oregon this season due to the pandemic.

On the field, Pehr said the Tigers are a team to watch this season.

"Overall, we will be solid and extra competitive and very difficult to beat," he said. "We're led by Brian Lanier, our goalkeeper, who just signed a scholarship to play at the University of Pacific. Christian Morales is a first-team all-conference returner who just signed at Corbett University, too. We're going to be very, very strong, and I expect us to be at the top half of the table come the end of the year."

For a full look at Newberg's 2021 schedule, visit the team's page on OSAA.org.


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